As opening fixtures go the 3-1 loss to Crystal Palace was a complete horror show from Manchester United. It will have been a major shock to the system and must act as the wake-up call the hierarchy need to resolve a long-running saga of disappointing transfer windows, if they are to truly challenge at the Premier League summit this season.
Wilfried Zaha not only exposed their limitations with a match-winning brace, but he also hurled a giant spotlight on their deficiencies when it comes to developing an impressive track record in the market.
The Palace forward was recruited by Manchester United as one for the future in January 2013. He was Alex Ferguson's last signing before retiring and is almost symbolic of the club's demise both on and off the pitch ever since. Zaha left on a permanent basis within two years without truly being given a run in the side. Now, he’s producing some sensational displays for the Eagles and well and truly came back to haunt his old team here.
'Just one warm-up game' - Solskjaer on Man Utd's defeat to Palace
It's not that Zaha would be seen as someone United need to go after now, but more a case of how poor the transfer policy has actually been since Ferguson’s departure seven years ago. He is regarded as one of the most exciting forwards to watch on his day and his latest display against the side that let him go will only add fuel to the fire in terms of those lamenting the club’s laboured actions over numerous windows.
Yes, Donny van de Beek came off the bench to score on his debut for the Red Devils – but that was about it for positives against Palace and he remains the only notable addition during the summer at present.
Ed Woodward has suggested a more cautious approach is part of a ‘long-term approach to blending high-quality recruits with homegrown talent’ and also highlighted the acquisition of Bruno Fernandes in January. His impact was transformative, but United needed to build on that successful addition and the strong end to last season by recruiting in a variety of positions, including centre back, left back and forward. Let's face it. One or two signings are not going to bridge the gap to Liverpool and Manchester City, who have both strengthened.
Media and die-hard fans will point to some harsh VAR calls for Palace’s second goal and it’s a valid frustration with the system overall. However, it merely papers over glaring cracks in a tepid Red Devils showing. The same old issues are there defensively with Victor Lindelof painfully exposed and showing once more why a top-class centre back to partner Harry Maguire is urgently required before the window shuts on October 5. Lindelof is at the start of his fourth season at Old Trafford and has not shown much to suggest he is good enough to be part of a team with ambitions of lifting the game's biggest prizes.
Former player, Patrice Evra summed it up ahead of the clash when he agreed with the disappointment of fans who are fed up of Woodward’s poor record overall when it comes to signings. The Frenchman suggested it was ‘déjà vu in the transfer window’ as ‘United make more impact on social media than in the reality.’
This shocking result, coupled with the fact Liverpool and Tottenham have been announcing major signings in the past two days, will only exacerbate the bad mood and feeling that this is going to be another poor window for the Old Trafford club. Even if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men had won, fans would still be highlighting areas where the team needs to improve if they are to truly challenge.
Of course, it can change in an instant. Jadon Sancho continues to be linked while Porto left back, Alex Telles is reportedly on the verge of a move. These could yet happen and there is still time to make some significant strides - but it needs to be more urgent and decisive. It is clear that United fans have run out of patience and the Palace result will do little to quell the feeling they will be left behind by their rivals again this term.
As it stands, United are already playing catch up and feeling the heat after just 90 minutes of football. It seems bleak now after a disappointing first weekend of Premier League action for them, but if this loss acts as the catalyst for United’s recruitment team to make some firm and significant moves as a result, then it could yet prove to be a key moment. A big two weeks lie ahead. Over to you Ed and co.