Manchester United made a very poor start to the 2022/2023 season. An opening-day defeat to Brighton was followed by a 4 - 0 mauling away to Brentford which cast doubt over the management of Erik Ten Hag. Fast forward a year and despite the recovery to finish third and win the Carabao Cup last season, it's even worse at the start of 2023/2024 for United.
The Red Devils have had some tough fixtures to start the season, but their dire performances have put all sorts of question marks on Erik Ten Hag and a number of the first-team players, especially after the lack of effort on display in the weekend's defeat to Brighton.
Rumours of a bust-up in the dressing room following the 3 - 1 loss have not improved the picture around the club. Captain Bruno Fernandes and fellow midfielder Scott McTominay reportedly had an argument that boiled over when Victor Lindelof and Lissandro Martinez took opposite sides; Ten Hag had to break up the situation himself.
This wasn't the first controversy to surround Manchester United in the young season. The loan deal for Mason Greenwood was followed by allegations of abuse made against Antony, resulting in the Brazilian being put on a "leave of absence" by the club. It's unclear if or when the winger might return to Carrington.
This was after Jadon Sancho had already lashed out at Erik Ten Hag. The England winger was dropped for the trip to Arsenal, with Ten Hag citing disciplinary reasons for his absence. Sancho then took to social media to hit back at his own manager before deleting his statement.
United are a broken club at the moment, and whilst some of the problems are beyond their control, others are certainly of their own doing.
On the face of it, the results Manchester United have had so far this season aren't terrible. They've won home games against Wolves and Nottingham Forest before losing to Brighton at Old Trafford. On the road, they've lost to Arsenal and Tottenham in North London, both tough places to go.
As mentioned before though, it's not the results that are the issue, but more the body language and the manner of their performances.
Even in victory against Wolves on the opening weekend, United were slow and lethargic. The away side dominated the game and were very unlucky to lose 1 - 0 to a Raphael Varane header, especially given a blatant foul by Andre Onana in stoppage time should've given Wolves a late penalty.
It was more of the same away to Tottenham. Spurs were poor for the entire first half but United couldn't make the most of countless opportunities to play in Marcus Rashford.
Tottenham's fullbacks play in midfield when they attempt to play out from the back, and it didn't work at all against the Red Devils, but United were equally sloppy in taking the chances as Spurs were in giving them away. Tottenham then scored twice (one a Lissandro Martinez own goal) in the second half to take all three points.
Whilst United did bounce back to beat Nottingham Forest the following weekend they were far from convincing. Steve Cooper's Forest side were 2 - 0 up with less than four minutes played. United quickly hit back through Eriksen, before Casemiro and Bruno Fernandes completed the turnaround either side of a Joe Worrall red card in the second half.
Of course there's an argument that United could've completed the comeback with or without the red card. But it isn't convincing going 2 - 0 down and winning 3 - 2 through a penalty. It's one of those where if the performances either side had been good, no one would bat an eyelid, but with United struggling, it provided more questions than answers.
After Forest was a trip to the Emirates. Whilst United had been fortunate in their first two home matches of the season, they were bitterly unlucky against Arsenal.
The first half was dominated by Arsenal, but United managed to get to half-time level, with Marcus Rashford and Martin Odegaard scoring just 34 seconds apart, the least time between two goals in the Premier League this season.
Arsenal have a knack for late goals, and for the last half an hour of the match, United sat back. They thought they'd stolen a glorious victory in the 89th minute when Alejandro Garnacho fired past Aaron Ramsdale, but clever positioning from Gabriel played the Argentine just offside.
United were disappointed to lose the winner but certainly would've taken a draw. It wasn't to be however, as Declan Rice and Gabriel Jesus scored in the 97th and 101st minutes to sink Erik Ten Hag's side.
The defeat was made worse with the news that Aaron Wan-Bissaka had picked up an injury in North London, keeping him on the sidelines for at least a few weeks.
Saturday's defeat to Brighton rubbed salt in the wound. United looked a beaten team for most of the second half, only hitting back at Brighton's 3 - 0 lead through Hannibal Mejbri's first Premier League goal. Each of the three Seagulls' goals were brilliantly worked, as Robert De Zerbi's side outclassed Erik Ten Hag's.
There will be those who blame the bad press around the club of course, which doesn't help the situation. But the reality is that there are football matches to be won, and Manchester United aren't doing that.
A midweek trip to Germany to face Bayern Munich isn't the obvious answer to such a crisis. But it might just give United what they need. By far their most convincing performance of the season came at the Emirates against Arsenal, and, like with the Arsenal-United rivalry, there is a plethora of European pedigree between the Red Devils and the German champions.
A combination of injuries and off-the-pitch issues have forced Ten Hag into making several changes to his team already this season. Those who are being given the opportunity to play have the chance to consolidate their place in the team with a big performance against a team of Bayern's stature.
Even if United do lose to Bayern Munich, it wouldn't be a shock. Bayern haven't lost any of their last 34 group stage matches in the Champions League, winning their last 13. There is no shame in losing away to the German champions.
What Manchester United absolutely have to do is show up. They need to show their fans, especially those who have travelled almost 1,000 miles to Munich, that they want to play for the badge.