MANCHESTER UNITED have been so bad this season that it is hard to know if this was rock bottom.
But one thing is for sure: this sorry excuse for a Red Devils team is officially the worst since Fergie left, statistically speaking.
Ralf Rangnick’s rabble needed to win both their final two games just to match the 64 points earned in David Moyes’ solitary season at the helm.
That measly total achieved under the Scot in the 2013-14 campaign had stood as the lowest haul of the era after Sir Alex Ferguson retired.
But it has now been surpassed after Rangnick’s side were destroyed on the south coast by Brighton.
Moises Caicedo and Marc Cucurella did the damage with their first goals in English football.
United then threw in the towel as Pascal Gross and Leandro Trossard made it 4-0 before the hour. And it could have been more.
Liverpool home and away was an awful experience for United fans, losing 9-0 on aggregate this term.
But to be humiliated by midtable Albion, as good a side as Graham Potter’s is, could well be the nadir.
Goalscorers Caicedo and Cucurella both represented so much more than just the catalysts for a thoroughly-convincing three points.
Ecuadorian midfielder Caicedo was a Red Devils target back in December 2020 when playing for Independiente del Valle in his home country.
But they failed to complete what was said to be a complicated deal and a month later, Albion swooped.
It is not as if the 20-year-old was an instant success, as he did his time in the Seagulls’ Under-23s and then had an underwhelming loan earlier this term in Belgium with Beerschot.
But since winning a place in Potter’s starting XI during the win at Arsenal at the start of last month, he has been a revelation.
Now he looks to be yet another star-in-the-making in Brighton’s squad, joining the likes of Tariq Lamptey, Yves Bissouma, Robert Sanchez and more rough diamonds Potter has polished up.
Big-haired Cucurella, who was in tears after firing in the second early in the second half, could well be the pick of the bunch.
The left-back’s signing for £15million from Getafe last summer has to go down as one of the smartest pieces of business in the Premier League this term.
And it would be no surprise at all if bigger clubs did not come calling soon enough for the 23-year-old – not that Albion would want to sell.
FREE BETS AND SIGN UP DEALS – BEST NEW CUSTOMER OFFERS
Meanwhile United started four players aged over 30, including Nemanja Matic and Juan Mata who are both out of contract at the end of next month.
In fairness to Mata, he seemed to be the only one really giving it a go out there, having impressed against Brentford last time out.
But the fact the likeable Spaniard was even playing spoke to the lack of forward-planning at Old Trafford.
Perhaps his inclusion was a message from Rangnick to incoming boss Erik ten Hag to highlight just how many problems the Dutchman is walking into.
What to do about Cristiano Ronaldo will top Ten Hag’s priority list.
From an individual perspective, the 37-year-old has been a success on his return, hitting 18 league goals and 24 in all competitions.
But United have undoubtedly become a worse team since he has come back.
And on days like this when he is not only ineffectual but at times petulant – as his yellow card for a pathetic foul on Lewis Dunk showed him to be – you have to wonder if the one of the greatest players of all time is worth the hassle given his ego.
His error-stewn performance here set the tone for a woeful team display that Potter’s well-drilled and talented side exploited.
Caicedo got the ball rolling inside 15 minutes.
He brilliantly controlled a blocked shot before finding the corner with a low, drilled effort from outside the area which nutmegged Scott McTominay AND Victor Lindelof.
United old-boy Danny Welbeck should have doubled the lead when a horror touch from Raphael Varane played him in, but the striker’s first-time lob went over the bar.
Rangnick brought on Edinson Cavani and Fred at the break.
Yet his side were further behind in mere minutes of the restart.
Trossard picked up Mac Allister’s low cross on the left-hand side of the box and cut it back to Cucurella who dispatched it into the top corner.
The defender held up his hands into a heart shape in celebration and looked to be crying.
United’s impressive travelling support will have felt like doing the same as they watched their side pitifully collapse.
Gross coolly finished off a fine team move to make it three, before Trossard notched the fourth when Diogo Dalot’s goal-line clearance clattered against his chest and went over the line.
The scoreline could have been worse. But surely United, under Ten Hag next term, cannot be.