It was a golden opportunity. A perfect lofted pass in behind the Tottenham Hotspur defence by Wayne Rooney had exploited a neat piece of movement by Radamel Falcao and the Colombian striker looked certain to open the scoring.
Instead, his attempt at a shot was pretty dismal and the ball merely looped up in to the hands of a grateful Hugo Lloris. Such a poor effort was a shock coming from a player who was once considered the most dangerous centre-forward in world football.
That moment in the first half at White Hart Lane would hardly have sent fear into the hearts of the Old Trafford club’s forthcoming opponents. It was as if Falcao had rubber ankles, there’s no zip to him. The all-action physical centre-forward that dominated defenders for so long just isn’t there anymore.
Louis van Gaal saw the former Porto and Atletico Madrid goal machine join his squad during the closing hours of deadline day for the summer transfer window, with the reported total of the loan fee and £190,000-a-week wages hitting £16million for the season-long deal.
Perhaps criticising him strongly is a little unfair as, apart from last week, he has not had a consistent run of games since returning from a ruptured cruciate ligament suffered earlier this year. It is a serious injury and can have lasting effects on the sufferer.
However, modern surgery techniques mean it has never been easier to come back from the injury and be able to return to the same levels of fitness when the injury was sustained. Perhaps a period of playing regularly will extract some of the old Falcao out of the current imposter.
Alternatively, it may be time Manchester United cut their losses on him. Next week sees Van Gaal arrive at the halfway point in the season having used Falcao grand total of 11 times and only six starts. These 11 appearances have garnered two goals from him and the lingering feeling that Van Gaal does not trust him.
‘It’s a long season’ is a phrase often trotted out when certain players are not getting a great deal of game time, hinting their time will come, especially at around this point in the season where the fixtures and injured bodies are piling up.
However, this is probably the shortest season Manchester United have had for a number of years; finishing outside of Europe cut out a major chunk of fixtures and an embarrassing early exit from the League Cup at the hands of MK Dons meant their schedule was further freed up.
Robin van Persie is not having his best season, but at least with him their is Premier League pedigree to fall back on
Robin van Persie is not having his best season, but at least with him their is Premier League pedigree to fall back on in the dark times. Falcao looks lost in the Red Devils attack and while his movement remains brilliant, his ability to capitalise on these situations looks as though it is fading.
His acceleration does not take him away from Premier League defenders, he is outmuscled when on the ball far too often and his shooting has been substandard. It is almost painful to see him struggle so when you can remember him at his magnificent best - the video below of him eviscerating Chelsea in the 2012 UEFA Super Cup is a small sample of his peak.
The man currently occupying Manchester United’s number nine shirt is a shade of the player that moved from Atletico to the, then, big-spending AS Monaco in a deal worth a reported £50million last summer.
Perhaps this experiment is one that is just not going to work and sending him back to Ligue 1 to free up funds for a more effective partner to Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.
It’s a genuine shame that he has fallen so far, but it looks as though he is not the man he once was and is showing little sign of rediscovering his form in the Premier League. Manchester United and Van Gaal need to find an alternative, sharpish.