Billed as a must win even this early in the season, Manchester United fell to a limp defeat at Watford as Jose Mourinho's bright start to life this season quickly faded away. Here are the five main players from United's latest crisis point.
In the wake of United's limp defeat away to Feyenoord in the Europa League, Jose Mourinho faced the prospect of three successive defeats and thus screams of crisis this early in his Manchester United career. Before the game, Mourinho brushed off the Feyenoord defeat, again highlighting the contempt he has for the Europa League. He certainly didn't look like a man under pressure before the game:
Jose Mourinho 'under pressure after poor results...'
— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) September 18, 2016
His team selection focused on accentuating the strengths of Paul Pogba - deployed here on the left of a midfield three and crowbarring Wayne Rooney into the team - stationed to Pogba's right in midfield.
Marouane Fellaini was at the base of United's midfield and Chris Smalling replaced Daley Blind at centre-back - two moves to counter Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney.
United were appalling in the first half. Fellaini and Rooney lumbered around midfield while Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial swapped wings at will to no effect. Martial departed through injury after 35 minutes and even this early, we have to ask if the French international is about to join the Mourinho wasteland of wide players occupied by the likes of Eden Hazard, André Schürrle and that blond lad who's playing quite well for Manchester City.
MUFC started as if they went from Rotterdam straight to Amsterdam for a three day bender.
— Andy Mitten (@AndyMitten) September 18, 2016
Marcus Rashford brought United back into it in the second half and there was a marginal improvement before Watford took the lead again. United didn't become one of the best teams in Europe after three successive wins nor have they become wretched after three defeats, but Mourinho's reliance on height and power and United's lack of any kind of coherent attacking pattern stand in stark contrast to the technicolor wonder that Pep Guardiola is carving at Manchester City.
Perhaps it's not fair to compare, but United hired Mourinho as the anti-Pep - the man to bring him down, right now, that decision seems like it would have been a good one ten years ago.
Ibrahimovic has made a superb scoring start to life at Manchester United but here he was badly isolated at times and forced to offer himself as a cultured battering ram. The usual flashes of quality were there but when he is asked to take more than one or two touches, any speed United generate is ground to a halt. Troy Deeney told the story of him meeting Ibrahimovic before the game and it's a safe bet that the Swede now knows who he is:
— Tim Gatt (@TimGatt) September 18, 2016
One rasping shot that clattered the bar was the highlight of a first half performance where the Frenchman looked slightly happier as part of a midfield three. He had to revert to a more holding role after the break as Mourinho shuffled his pack. How he must pine for the days when he had the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio alongside him.
It's farcically early to judge him a success or failure at United and there are times when he brushes aside a couple of challenges and extends those rangy legs when he genuinely looks like the best midfielder in the world. Mourinho needs to give him a position and stick to it.
The perennial problem. This performance followed the same pattern we've seen from Rooney for nigh on a year now. Lots of shuffling around, floated passes and pointing at nothing in general. One 'cross' after an hour - when he was in five yards of unoccupied space - gently breezed into the crowd and was indicative of another awful performance.
Rooney's untouchable place in the United 11 tells us that perhaps this isn't the Mourinho we used to know. How can he watch these insipid performances and not react? When has Mourinho tried to jam an under-performing player into a system because of his status? Are United contractually obliged to play Rooney?
Another #MUFC 45 minutes, another underwhelming performance from Wayne Rooney. At some stage, Mourinho has to put a stop to it. Harming team
— Ian McCourt (@ianmccourt) September 18, 2016
Not sure why everyone is moaning about Wayne Rooney.......he's been out standing for Watford today
— Rappid Rashford (@RappidRashford) September 18, 2016
Fellaini can be a highly effective player when deployed in the right circumstances. Those circumstances have never been at United. Jose Mourinho's fondness for him speaks to his conservatism as an attacking coach. Here Fellaini was stationed at the base of United's midfield, a task he is simply not up to. Mourinho values his height and physicality and ignores the fact he verges on useless in possession.
Fellaini running about like a potted plant on a Segway being controlled remotely by a drunk fan.
— John O'Sullivan (@johngosullivan) September 18, 2016
The fact that Michael Carrick hasn't played a minute this season is one of the more bizarre Mourinho decisions. But then, Mourinho isn't interested in controlling games, just containing them.
Is that enough for Manchester United?