As much as I’d like to write conceding a last minute winner to a Championship side as a freak occurrence off as ‘just one of those things’, this had been coming.
Jose Mourinho’s men froze as the ball looped over to Korey Smith, who then slipped a shot through Sergio Romero‘s legs to consign Manchester United to their worst defeat of the season so far.
And it hadn’t happened because they outdid the visitors; it happened because Man United, once again, were asleep at the wheel. They did this to themselves.
This has happened time and time again this season, yet never to such galling effect.
Last weekend, for example, saw United let West Bromwich Albion back into the game when they appeared to be coasting to a 2-0 win. Thankfully, they held on.
Two goal leads against both Watford and Arsenal somehow became excruciating affairs when Manchester City, in the same situation, would have turned each game into a cricket score. That first half away to FC Basel somehow slipped by without United scoring and they were made to pay for it with a 90th minute Peter Lang goal.
United are still generally dominating games, scoring goals, and indeed picking up points, but they are letting themselves fall victim to moments of indifference – a feeling of absence, almost – bitING them where it hurts and, in turn, revealing a soft underbelly that Bristol exploited well on Wednesday.
This could be stemming from the man at the top. Mourinho’s propensity for creating a drama that brings the limelight on himself can occasionally engender an air of overall distraction, of the game somehow not being all that is focused on, which ultimately impacts on those on the pitch.
Maybe his tendency to focus too much on the opposition, forgetting his players and qualities as a result, is the reason. Or perhaps his inability to play truly expansive, flowing football precludes his side from ever truly breaking free of an opponent and silly, pressure-generated mistakes.
Whatever the cause, it needs to be located and stopped quickly, otherwise United’s season could fall victim to this quickly growing epidemic.