Consigned to European football’s secondary competition following the midweek Champions League defeat at Wolfsburg, United are now in danger of falling out of the Premier League title race.
Saturday’s defeat at Bournemouth would be unthinkable for the club in normal circumstances, a result that would be seen as an aberration in more successful seasons.
On Saturday, though, it summed up the stack of problems now mounting at manager Louis van Gaal’s door that demand resolution during the January transfer window if United are to rescue the campaign.
A long list of absentees — nine senior players had been ruled out because of injury or suspension — had stripped Van Gaal’s squad down to the bare bones.
But that only served to confirm the flaws in the Dutchman’s squad, and faced with a defence that included three raw youngsters, Bournemouth took full advantage to record a memorable win.
Carrick’s disappointment was clear, if not fully articulated.
“I could say there are different reasons,” said the midfielder. “I could talk a lot, but at the end of the day it’s about the results. We need to get back, stick together, and trust ourselves to do the right thing and bounce back.
“We’ve had a few injuries, I’m not making any excuses but if you look at the injuries... I thought the young lads did well, to be honest. It was a tough one to come into, a tough two games. They’ve stepped in and done well. I don’t like making excuses, we’ve got the squad, we’re the club that we are because we want to be fighting in the competitions, when you’ve got injuries you’ve got to deal with them so I’m not making excuses.
“It’s been a tough one to take, very disappointing week. Going out of the Champions League was obviously tough to take and we were very disappointed.
“And then to come here, we wanted to bounce back, we tried to bounce back and to fall short like we have is doubly disappointing.”
There’s no doubt the Champions League exit has hit hard but United’s response to that disappointment was poor, with defensive errors contributing to their problems. First, David De Gea let Junior Stanislas’ second-minute corner drift in at the far post. And in the 54th minute, Daley Blind allowed Josh King move into space and strike the winning goal.
Having built their season around a solid back-four to compensate for the lack of flair further forward, United were utterly undermined.
“I think when you come across Man United and you see a back-four like that, I think you almost have to fancy your chances,” said Glenn Murray, who missed two opportunities to extend Bournemouth’s lead when he arrived as sub.
Van Gaal’s side had fought their way back into the game and levelled through Marouane Fellaini’s scuffed effort, but they lacked the momentum and quality to take control of the game. If the manager needed evidence that his squad remains incomplete, despite around £250 million worth of investment, it was here. For Bournemouth, there were signs they can defy the odds and stay up, with this win coming on the back of last weekend’s shock defeat of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
That it came on the sixth anniversary of a 5-0 defeat at Morecambe in League Two only added to the sense of achievement.
“Someone reminded me of that earlier,” said Eddie Howe. “I didn’t know that, and all the emotions of that game came flooding back. That was a terrible game.
“It does show how far the club’s come. Not in your wildest dreams could you have ever imagined when I was standing there watching that Morecambe game that we would be beating Manchester United in the Premier League.
“It’s not possible. So it really does prove what can happen in football. It’s an unbelievable game.”
Boruc 8; Smith 7, Cook 7, Francis 8, Daniels 7; Ritchie 7, Surman 7, Arter 8 (O’Kane 86), Gosling 8, Stanislas 8; King 9 (Murray 65).
Federici, Pugh, Rantie, Kermorgant, Distin.
De Gea 5; Varela 6, McNair 5 (Jones 90), Blind 4, Borthwick-Jackson 6; Carrick 6, Fellaini 6 (Powell 74, 6); Lingard 6 (Pereira 31, 6), Mata 7, Depay 5; Martial 4.
Romero, Young, Schneiderlin, Tuanzebe.
A Taylor 7.