THE fear factor has returned to Old Trafford.
Unfortunately, it is the Manchester United players who look terrified.
A place that used to inspire is now turning the men in red into shadows of what they could and should be.
Their performances are starting to follow a very similar pattern.
In the past former boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer used to bemoan their sluggish starts.
Now the problem is the shambolic way they end games.
They become fearful of making a mistake because of the reaction they will get from the crowd or their team-mates.
So they stop trying things, they regress into their shells.
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They need a two or three-goal lead to play with any confidence.
Mind you even two wasn’t enough at Aston Villa when they surrendered that advantage to take just a point.
The one they lead through against Southampton from the boot of Jadon Sancho should have given them a platform for more.
As should Sancho’s opener against Middlesbrough and Paul Pogba’s at Turf Moor against Burnley on Tuesday.
The problem is even with a foothold and a goal advantage they look nervous.
The good early football of which there was plenty against Boro and Burnley can quickly unravel to the point when they look like strangers to each other.
Witness this game after Southampton got an equaliser early in the second half.
Soon United players were shouting at each other, nothing wrong in that, but not in a positive way.
Bruno Fernandes was throwing a strop as he wrestled with James Ward-Prowse.
The defence was not holding a line, look at how the equaliser came about.
Sancho, who had started so positively, was not the same player after Fernandes had given him a long-distance telling off for having lost the ball upfield on one of his thrilling runs.
Cristiano Ronaldo was playing his own game again and not a very good one.
He ambles about, he gets caught offside.
Pogba who had started the game so strongly looked like he had given up on his team-mates by the end.
And all the time the frustration in the ground grows and so does the fear factor on the pitch.
This is no longer a scary place to come for any opponent.
The dread of playing here is now reserved for those in red.
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