When a Twitter/X account with seven million followers feels emboldened to send a tweet parroting a Chelsea fan with the entirely fabricated statistic of ‘André Onana has faced 12 shots on target this season. Nine of them have gone in’ without bothering to check its veracity and barely anybody stops laughing for long enough to question whether it makes even a modicum of sense, you know the appetite for a Manchester United crisis has its own force-field and is simply impossible to resist.
It really doesn’t matter that Manchester United played relatively well for 25 minutes and should have been 1-0 up within four minutes but for Alphonso Davies’ goal-saving tackle (perhaps he is a “great defender” after all, Erik). It matters not that their initial defensive shape easily contained a Bayern Munich side that lacked fluidity.
Because as sure as night follows day and conspiracy theorists blindly believe a predator, there was always going to be an almighty f***-up.
This time the f***-up spinning bottle stopped opposite Onana, prompting a barrage of revisionism about David De Gea and knowing comments about United buying a goalkeeper for his footwork and forgetting about the primary purpose of the position.
But this is not about Onana – he has proved himself to be an excellent, well-rounded goalkeeper for Ajax and Inter – but about Manchester United, whose self-destructive streak is stronger than the will of any 11 men. The swift links with a swift exit will multiply.
And once Onana had made that calamitous error to launch a thousand memes, another error was always coming. Against Nottingham Forest, Arsenal and Brighton, a goal was followed by another within two, five and 18 minutes. That ‘improvement’ was derailed within five minutes in Munich as Jamal Musiala destroyed Diogo Dalot and Serge Gnabry found himself socially distanced from the criminally napping Lisandro Martinez.
Mistakes beget mistakes. Panic begets panic.
That two-goal lead was briefly halved by Rasmus Hojlund after a heavy deflection but there can be no respite from the Manchester United narrative right now and only a few gloriously optimistic minutes had passed before Christian Eriksen was getting all retro and assisting Harry Kane for Bayern Munich’s third with one of those ‘harsh but’ penalty decisions that appeared to end the match as a contest.
There was still time for some excellent Onana saves that only he will remember, Sergio Reguilon can sleep soundly knowing that his performance easily cleared a low bar to make him Manchester United’s man of the match, and Casemiro scored twice to prove there was some fight left in this troubled side, but that will be lost in the haze of statistics about 45-year lows.
Why the surprise? Of course this Manchester United side has conceded at least three goals in three consecutive matches; they are as fragile as blown sugar.
Can blame be levelled at Ten Hag? Perhaps some. But he is working with one-quarter of his preferred defence, his new defensive midfielder is still in the waiting room and the club has been beset with dickery upon dickery. And yet they have left Munich with a narrow one-goal defeat that many would have grasped with both hands in the build-up. There was desire in amongst the dross. There was purpose in amongst the panic.
This spell is glorious fun for those that revel in a Manchester United crisis – and nothing sells newspapers and creates clicks like a Manchester United crisis – but we should be careful not to draw too many conclusions. Not about Onana. And not about Ten Hag. This is Manchester United and right now their circus is inevitable.