Defeat to Liverpool on Sunday confirmed Manchester United’s worst-ever start to a Premier League season.
The gap between the fierce rivals now stands at 19 points, with Liverpool top and Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils languishing in sixth.
After winning silverware in his first season at Old Trafford and finishing second last year, Press Association Sport asks where has it all gone wrong for Mourinho and United?
Mourinho’s side have won only seven of their 17 league matches this campaign and also crashed out of the Carabao Cup at home to Derby.
While progression into the latter stages of the Champions League was secured, a top-four finish to ensure qualification for next year’s competition appears less and less likely – meaning Mourinho’s men would have to win this season’s edition.
In finishing a distant second to champions Manchester City last season, United conceded only 28 goals, one more than their neighbours.
While Sunday’s 3-1 loss at Anfield means they have already shipped 29 before the halfway stage this time around.
Newly-promoted Wolves sit just a point behind United in the table and have the same goal difference (0) as the 20-time league champions.
Other than Michael Carrick retiring to join Mourinho’s coaching staff and squad-player Daley Blind sold to Ajax, United lost no major names during the summer.
Mourinho’s main gripe was that the squad he had was not sufficiently strengthened in areas he felt necessary.
The Portuguese was adamant he needed at least one new central defender with the likes of Toby Alderweireld, Harry Maguire and Diego Godin all linked with Old Trafford – but nothing transpiring.
Instead, United signed teenage full-back Diogo Dalot, Brazil midfielder Fred and 35-year-old goalkeeper Lee Grant as back-up to David De Gea and Sergio Romero.
It remains to be seen if – given the poor start – Mourinho is backed in the January transfer window but it is notoriously difficult to land big-name players during the season.
Mourinho insisted after the Liverpool defeat that his players were not “dishonest” and that they were giving their all for him and the club.
Instead he simply said Liverpool are currently better than his team, something that was echoed by former United captain Roy Keane as he worked as a pundit for Sky Sports.
Paul Pogba, the club-record signing, was an unused substitute as the visitors chased the game on Sunday but the World Cup winner is still yet to hit the heights of his Juventus days since returning to the club in 2016.
Romelu Lukaku’s goal in the recent 4-1 home win over struggling Fulham was his first at Old Trafford since March, while Alexis Sanchez remains injured following a dismal start to his United career.
Mourinho has to shoulder most of the blame. While he did not get the backing he felt he required in the last transfer window, United have spent big since the former Chelsea boss replaced Louis Van Gaal.
Big-money centre-backs Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof are still yet to nail down a place in Mourinho’s team, while the Portuguese seemingly remains locked in a power struggle with Pogba.
There are rumours of a rift with Antonio Valencia, a player who was regularly wearing the captain’s armband for Mourinho in recent times.