Manchester United would only be fifth in a Premier League table representing the nine years since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club.
United have had four permanent managers since Sir Alex departed in 2013 and are now seeking a fifth after sacking Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Sunday.
The Norwegian left the club with them sat eighth in the table and 12 points adrift from league-leaders Chelsea. Not quite the start many fans were expecting after a runners-up finish last term preceded a stellar summer transfer window.
A sensible way to gauge success since Ferguson left the club is to check a league table between then and now: United have slipped down to fifth and sit merely three points clear of Arsenal.
Noisy neighbours City have racked up 127 more points from the same number of games in that time.
The graphic below reveals United are currently suffering their worst run of form in the Premier League since 2019 – but also underlines how their form has never recovered for a sustained period of time since Ferguson retired.
At the start of this campaign, major trophies and perhaps even their first league title in nine years appeared to be drawing closer – but the numbers merely embellish the obvious: United remain off the pace.
In fact, United have won only a third of their league clashes with ‘big-six’ opposition since the summer of 2013 – while City and Liverpool have claimed victory in almost half of their games.
Spending cranked up the pressure
The contrast in application on the pitch during United’s recent defeats raised further questions about the level of investment spent on signings at Old Trafford.
Solskjaer had overseen a league-topping GBP312m net spend, while Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has made a GBP3.6m profit from transfer deals since the winter window of 2019.
United’s lavish spending this summer on Jadon Sancho (GBP73m), Raphael Varane (GBP41m) and Cristiano Ronaldo (GBP19.7m) contrasts significantly with Liverpool’s GBP36m outlay on Ibrahima Konate – a fee Liverpool balanced by selling Harry Wilson, Xherdan Shaqiri, Taiwo Awoniyi and others.
Solskjaer’s critics frequently claimed results were unacceptable after the team had been built in his image, having spent GBP441m on 13 players over six transfer windows – the highest outlay under any United manager during the post-Ferguson era.
Harry Maguire was the most expensive acquisition during Solskjaer’s tenure at GBP80m, followed by Sancho, Bruno Fernandes (GBP67.7m), Aaron Wan-Bissaka (GBP50m), Varane, Donny van de Beek (GBP39m), Amad Diallo (GBP37.2m), Ronaldo, Dan James (GBP18m) and Alex Telles (GBP15.4m).
November 23: Villarreal (a) – Champions League, kick-off 5.45pm
November 28: Chelsea (a) – Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports
December 2: Arsenal (h) – Premier League, kick-off 8.15pm
December 5: Crystal Palace (h) – Premier League, kick-off 2pm
December 8: Young Boys (h) – Champions League, kick-off 8pm