Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho accused his team of lacking 'heart' as they failed to break down Crystal Palace on Saturday and slumped to a disappointing 0-0 draw, just one of too many lacklustre performances already this season.
"You must play with brain and also with heart and I think not enough heart," was Mourinho's assessment after the final whistle of a game that saw United slip 14 points off the pace at the top of the Premier League and locked in a fierce uphill battle just to finish in the top four.
"It was the first of eight Premier League games until the end of December and a game we needed to win, and it was not enough from the heart," the boss added.
The Palace draw comes a fortnight after United were barely given a sniff by rivals and reigning champions City in the Manchester derby earlier this month, while it marked the fourth occasion in all competitions on which Mourinho's team have failed to score at Old Trafford this season.
United rose to seventh as a result of the game - two points lost rather than a point gained - but only because Watford and Bournemouth both lost this weekend. They were also leapfrogged by Everton and now trail fifth place Arsenal by as many as six points.
Overall, United have scored just 20 goals in 13 Premier League games this season, exactly half the number City have scored in the same number of games. Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Bournemouth have all scored more. Everton have scored the same and Leicester only two fewer.
There was a positive from the Palace game as United at least recorded a clean sheet, only their second in the Premier League this season. That could easily not have been the case, though, and the team can thank a horribly poor finish from Andros Townsend after he stumbled his way through several defenders to get in on goal for Palace not getting on the scoresheet.
United have conceded 21 Premier League goals in 13 games so far this season compared to 28 in all 38 games last season. Considering it is the same defensive unit, after famously failing to strengthen in the summer, the implosion to its current extent is rather bizarre. No other team in the Premier League's top 12 has conceded more than 19 and there are only three clubs outside the relegation zone - West Ham, Huddersfield and Burnley - who have been leaked more.
In fact, United's season has been so poor they are the only team in the top half with a negative goal difference. Irrespective of the rest of the table, that a side of United's standing and expectation should have a negative goal difference at all is completely unthinkable.
Despite a brief upturn in results, in October and early November, another seventh place finish à la David Moyes seems vastly more likely than a sudden surge towards the top four. What that essentially suggests is that, results and performance-wise, after a few false dawns have faded United are no better now than they were five agonising years ago.
It is a far cry from how the club's vibrant new women's side have been performing this season.
Finally bowing to the calls to reinstate the team 13 years after it was folded, United began life in the Women's Championship in September and have set the division alight. Unsurprisingly, they are set to meet their first year objective and earn immediate promotion to the top flight Super League to compete with national heavyweights like Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City.
24 hours after their male counterparts had bored fans to death with a lethargic 0-0 home draw against Crystal Palace, United Women won 8-0 against Millwall to go top of their league.
FT: #MUWomen 8 Milwall 0. A scintillating display from beginning to end sees us run out 8-0 winners after a hat-trick from @mollie_green97 and goals from @laurenjamess22, @AlexGreenwood, @ellatoone99, @katiezel & @jessSigsworth5. 🔝 of the league 🔴 pic.twitter.com/WxDaCDEdGu— Manchester United Women (@ManUtdWomen) November 25, 2018
That victory saw the team's tally of league goals in their eight games so far reach 40, an average of five per game, the kind of return fans expect from a supremely talented, in theory at least, attacking unit of Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Antony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata and others on the men's side. The women had won 12-0 in their very first league game in September.
At the back, meanwhile, United Women have conceded just a single league goal all season. That came when they met nearest title challengers Tottenham earlier this month and swept them aside 4-1. Overall, they have dropped only two points, an uncharacteristic 0-0 draw against promotion rivals Durham, to give themselves 22 points from a possible 24.
Mourinho spoke about 'heart', and the women's team have heart. Playing for Manchester United is an honour that club captain Alex Greenwood, a 28-cap England international, was prepared to temporarily drop down a division in order to accept. The same was true of defender Amy Turner, goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain, midfielder Lauren James and many others in the squad.
These players want to play for United and have the 'heart' that seemingly missing from elsewhere in the club right now.