Sighs, a few boos and pockets of supportive applause rang around Old Trafford at the final whistle of Manchester United’s latest game without a win.
The majority of fans who stayed until the end had seen their team - low on form, confidence and enterprise - fail to win for a fourth consecutive time. In isolation, a 0-0 draw against Valencia, the fourth best team in Spain last season and the 14th best so far this, was not a bad result.
Indeed United manager Jose Mourinho said: “I was pleased with the effort, the commitment, the improvement. I’m not pleased with the result which is not a good result, but it is not a bad result.”
The problem is partly the context of Saturday’s dismal defeat at West Ham United, which saw United slip nine points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City and Liverpool after only seven games.
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It was also another match of scant entertainment which left fans chanting “attack, attack, attack.” The under-fire United players made a public show of unity with a pre-match huddle after they arrived late at their own stadium and came within seconds of being fined by Uefa.
The Valencia team coach was there a full hour earlier. The Spaniards deserved their draw – their sixth in nine games against United.
Bright spots were few against a Valencia side who have won only one league game so far this season. Marcus Rashford, on the left of the attack, was United’s best player, intent on giving Valencia’s Brazilian goalkeeper Neto something to do, unlike the other forwards. Rashford was also the best performer at West Ham, even though he was only on the pitch as a substitute.
Up in the directors’ box, club greats including David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville, who once managed Valencia, watched on, while their former teammates Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand were highly critical of United under Mourinho as television pundits. The United they all watched was not the United they had been part of - one of the greatest teams in the world.
“I’m not interested,” Mourinho said when told of Scholes’ pre-match criticisms. “Freedom of speech. Free country. You can say what you want.”
The mood is low and heavy at this floundering giant of a football club, with continual negative headlines. Most of United’s players finished the game with their hands on their hips after another one-dimensional and ponderous performance.
Faults were easy to find. Romelu Lukaku looked static and starved of service. Alexis Sanchez is a pale shadow of the player who shone at Arsenal, Barcelona and Udinese. The central defensive partnership of Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling was the sixth one used by Mourinho in the 10 games so far this season. It failed to convince, though the clean sheet helped after the team conceded five goals last week.
“We put in a solid team performance but we lacked the final ball and clarity in front of goal,” Valencia manager Marcelino said. “We were competitive throughout against a very powerful United side.”
Valencia have one point from their opening two Uefa Champions League games, United have four. Group leaders Juventus, who United next play at Old Trafford on October 24, have six.
United fans were still supporting Mourinho inside the stadium, with chants of "Jose Mourinho’s red and white army" from the most vocal section of the stadium. There appears to be little appetite at Old Trafford for sacking Mourinho at present but make no mistake, United is a troubled club.
“From the supporters I cannot ask for any more,” said the beleaguered Mourinho. “I cannot ask for more than they are giving at home. Away with bad results, I cannot ask for more. I think it’s time for the people on the pitch to show them that they love the club as much as the fans.”
United host struggling Newcastle United on Saturday at Old Trafford. Surely they can’t go a fourth game without a home victory?