Manchester United saved their worst insult until last after Newcastle defeat – Richard Fay

The scoreline might only have read 1-0 to the home side but the truth is, this was as bad as some of their heavier defeats under Erik ten Hag. Not once did United look like winning the game and although there were some brief flickers of promise to net a goal, Newcastle were rarely troubled and will be kicking themselves that they didn&apost net four or five.

United&aposs performance was as limp and lifeless as it has ever been since Ten Hag took charge, yet what was even worse was their reaction to the embarrassing defeat.

PLAYER RATINGS: Martial and Rashford poor in Newcastle defeat

MATCH VERDICT: Ten Hag&aposs response to what Martial did cost United

As the players trudged off following their unacceptable performance, United assistant Steve McClaren had to stand at the top of the tunnel, ordering some of them back onto the pitch to applaud the supporters who had made the journey.

Yes, United&aposs own preparations for the match were less than ideal, but they still had a far more luxurious journey to St. James&apos Park than those loyal fans who braved the treacherous conditions.

It is obvious that United players would be disappointed after their performance, but this was akin to the final days of previous managers when similar scenes took place after awful away defeats. United are still without an away win at a top-eight league side since October 2021, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer&aposs last three points in management.

Ten Hag had already sewn the seeds for his post-match excuses when he complained about the fixture schedule and the &aposdisadvantage&apos of having to rotate his squad prior to kick-off.

United had a 65 million striker, a World Cup winner and an 85 million winger on the bench. Even amid their injuries, their squad depth is a luxury that most sides do not have.

Instead, their biggest disadvantage was their lack of identity or cohesion. United&aposs abysmal away record under Ten Hag isn&apost some odd quirk; it is the by-product of a manager who still doesn&apost have an established style of play and relies on individual moments to win matches.

You can point to the injury record all you like, but who who is currently sidelined that would actually improve that United side? Lisandro Martinez and Casemiro are the obvious answers, given how good they were last season, but that glosses over the fact that both of them were poor even when they were fit earlier in this campaign.

Mason Mount hasn&apost started even when he has been fit and Christian Eriksen tends to have little impact on a match unless it is against weaker opposition who are happy for United to have most of the ball.

Even with a depleted squad, there are certain standards that have to be met and United haven&apost done so at all this season. Last weekend&aposs win against Everton will be the subject of revisionism given how poor they were in the first half, with their only complete performance coming against Crystal Palace in the Carabao Cup. They then lost at home to the same opponents days later in the Premier League.

Questions have to be asked of Ten Hag given the amount of money he has spent and the big decisions he has made, but what is so tedious is that the issues do run deeper than him at the club.

United have enough financial power to rip it all up and start again in the hope that their next gamble pays off, though this lottery approach remains a very high-risk, high-reward approach.

It is hard to see any manager succeeding under the current sporting strategy (if you can even call it one) and only when there is serious structural change at the top will they have a real chance of putting things right on the pitch.