Manchester United fans have been on an exhausting tour of the United States this summer, and there was very little to cheer about Friday night when the team was beaten 2-1 by the defending Premier League champions Manchester City.
Manchester United hadn’t won an international friendly game away from home in five years. On Thursday night, they had enjoyed a 1-0 win against Chelsea. On Sunday, they led 2-0 at half-time against Besiktas in Istanbul. Then they were forced to settle for a draw.
And there was an extra dose of frustration because the match — played at the MetLife Stadium — was their first loss since a 3-1 defeat to Manchester City in the Champions League back in May.
The facts were enough to make United fans feel embarrassed. On top of this they are coping with the sudden death of star midfielder Michael Carrick. Carrick recently announced his retirement, an unexpected end to his long career. Carrick brought a measure of dignity and consistency to the team, leading the club to several successful cups.
At the end of this U.S. tour, there was no hiding the fact that they are not as good as they were last season.
Gone are the days when United could rely on a good run of results to propel them through the first third of the season. And now they are losing matches by narrow margins.
Even more troubling was that two of those narrow losses occurred against some Premier League rivalries. City beat United 2-1 in Los Angeles, for example, and Chelsea beat them, 2-1, at Stamford Bridge.
Many United fans were hoping the team would be able to add names like Julian Draxler to its own stable of professionals, so as to provide depth and competition to a side that, at the moment, lacks it.
Now, the squad will be undergoing “routine examinations,” said Jose Mourinho, the manager, on Sunday morning. “And if the results are good or not, I think the next step will be the Champions League because after that maybe we have time to ask about the Europa League or the Inter-tempted Cup, but I think more than the titles, we are more concerned by having the basis to survive in the Premier League and try to continue in the Premier League,” he said.