Strikes from Moises Caicedo, Marc Cucurella, Pascal Gross and Leandro Trossard in the space of an hour handed United their fifth consecutive loss on the road and means the class of 2021-22 will claim an unwanted record.
Defeat at the Amex means United now cannot record more than 61 points in the league this season.
Their previous lowest total in the Premier League era was in the first following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, with David Moyes and interim manager Ryan Giggs combining for 64 points and a seventh-placed finish.
United have finished second twice in the post-Ferguson era, first under Jose Mourinho in 2017-18 and then again under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last season.
The Red Devils are comfortably the most successful team since England’s top flight was rebranded in 1992 but have drifted into relative mediocrity since Ferguson’s retirement nine years ago.
The Scot led United to the title in the Premier League’s first season and went on to lift the trophy a further 11 times before calling time on his career in 2012-13.
Despite huge outlays on transfers, no manager since has been able to match the success Fergie enjoyed, but their performances have reached a nadir this season.
United were seventh in the table with 17 points after 12 games when Solskjaer, the fourth permanent manager since Ferguson, was sacked in November.
And things have not hardly improved since then with interim boss Ralf Rangnick struggling to stamp his authority on a squad resistant to his methods and failing to overturn the poor form of key players like Harry Maguire, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
One silver lining for Rangnick before he hands over the reins to Erik ten Hag this summer is that United look unlikely to match the seventh-placed finish of 2013-14, with West Ham six points behind.
However, should United lose their final match away to Crystal Palace then they could finish as low as eighth if West Ham and Wolves win their last three matches.
Man Utd season finishes
- 1992-93: 1st, 84 points*
- 1993-94: 1st, 92 points*
- 1994-95: 2nd, 88 points*
- 1995-96: 1st, 82 points
- 1996-97: 1st, 75 points
- 1997-98: 2nd, 77 points
- 1998-99: 1st, 79 points
- 1999-00: 1st, 91 points
- 2000-01: 1st, 80 points
- 2001-02: 3rd, 77 points
- 2002-03: 1st, 83 points
- 2003-04: 3rd, 75 points
- 2004-05: 3rd, 77 points
- 2005-06: 2nd, 83 points
- 2006-07: 1st, 89 points
- 2007-08: 1st, 87 points
- 2008-09: 1st, 90 points
- 2009-10: 2nd, 85 points
- 2010-11: 1st, 80 points
- 2011-12: 2nd, 89 points
- 2012-13: 1st, 89 points
- 2013-14: 7th, 64 points
- 2014-15: 4th, 70 points
- 2015-16: 5th, 66 points
- 2016-17: 6th, 69 points
- 2017-18: 2nd, 81 points
- 2018-19: 6th, 66 points
- 2019-20: 6th, 66 points
- 2020-21: 2nd, 74 points
- 2021-22: Best possible finish 6th, 61 points
*denotes 42-game season
Can Ten Hag bring back the glory days?
By Daniel Storey, i chief football writer
You know what they say: far better than being the man who follows Alex Ferguson is to be the man who follows the man who follows the man who follows the man who follows the man who follows the man who follows Ferguson.
You cannot say that Manchester United have not tried a range of options – British and foreign, dictatorial style and everybody’s friend, club legend and foreign import. You can say that none of them worked.
Erik ten Hag is different again, not least because he has elements of each of his predecessors but is directly comparable to none of them. He has been recruited directly from another club (the same is only true of David Moyes), has recently succeeded in Europe and a domestic league and is known for building clubs according to his vision of how football should be played.
He has overachieved with a smaller club (Utrecht), succeeded with a domestic giant (Ajax) and developed a style under a modern great (Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich).
A slate cannot be both clean and yet smeared with dirt. And yet despite everything: the Great Ronaldo Debate 2022, the Bruno Fernandes and 4-3-3 conundrum, Paul Pogba being told to leave by his own fans, Harry Maguire – sad statue edition, Marcus Rashford – sad everything edition, the recruitment illogical, the misplaced arrogance, Gary Neville saying “This is Manchester United” in an increasingly weary tone, the Ed Woodward directorial dissonance. Despite all of that and more, there are reasons to believe that this can be a good fit.
Ten Hag has a prodigious record of developing young talent. He has a clear idea of what he wants and – more importantly – clear ideas of how Manchester United must help him get there. There are no strings of attachment to the club and there, on the surface at least, seems to be no inflated ego. He does not seek to put Manchester United back on a quasi-mythical perch nor to silence noisy neighbours, simply to make them the best club they can be.
But more important than all of that, he arrives at a club that has no choice but to let him shape them rather than the vice versa. They have reached their likely rock bottom and they have called in the emergency services. Anything other than an accession to Ten Hag’s demands on recruitment, staff, coaching and style will be met with mutiny.