"So I'll go on Twitter for awhile. What's the worst that could happen?"
They took the time piece right out of the equation and reveled in black humor at the expense of beleaguered midfielder Michael Carrick on Twitter.
To be fair, there were plenty of the normally banal questions posed to Carrick, who was hardly to blame for the bloodbath that would later ensue:
#AskCarrick do think we will finish in the top4??— leon amos (@leeamos10) February 4, 2014
Here's the thing, though.
These Twitter Q&A's are intended to be the fans' chance to get to know their heroes and grab a sliver of limelight for themselves in the process. It's an opportunity for the club's supporters to get to know the "real" Michael Carrick.
This session, however, became a prime example of what happens when keeping it real goes wrong.
Such a give-and-take is a fine fit for a club that is performing more or less as it is expected to perform, which is most of the Premier League this season. There is not much to be made of, say, a Santi Cazorla appearance or an Andreas Weimann spot.
But Manchester United were, with Manchester City and Chelsea, supposed to be part of the three-horse race Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho recently alluded to for the Premier League title, per James Dickenson of the Express.
Mourinho, though, was not referring to United.
United's cup chases were similarly feckless.
Chased out of the Capital One Cup by Sunderland and from the FA Cup by Swansea City (who just sacked Michael Laudrup), United are left trying to pull a Don Quixote in the Champions League and to sneak into Champions League qualification for next season to salvage this one.
Which is how a torrent of snark like this:
"#AskCarrick if you could drop one player from the team how would you tell Cleverley?"— IG: TheRealAdonye (@TheRealAdonye) February 4, 2014
How did you play alongside the best cm of his generation for 6 years and learn absolutely nothing? #AskCarrick— Yusuf Raja (@YusRaja) February 4, 2014
In retrospect, the mystery is not why something as innocuous as this careened so spectacularly off the rails.
The mystery is how any of the parties involved thought it was a good idea in the first place.
Which United public relations flack signed off on this on the heels of a loss at the Britannia to moribund Stoke City, a loss where Carrick himself figured prominently in the first Stoke goal?
For that matter, why didn't Carrick's representation raise a subtle hand and suggest that maybe this exercise should be rescheduled?
There is no point in suggesting that Carrick could have saved himself. He is just a man who chases a ball around a pitch and kicks it back to his keeper sometimes, after all. Full marks to him, by the way, for the classy way he disengaged from the debacle:
Seems Ive taken a touch of abuse today on here... so nice of u all to take the time..👍 #AskCarrick for matchday programme. Same time tmro😉— Michael Carrick (@carras16) February 3, 2014
At day's end, this was truly a perfect storm: A world-famous football club underachieving at historic levels, rife with recent transfer failures and led by a manager who may wish he had never agreed to follow Sir Alex Ferguson, subjecting one of its solid servants to the invective of an unruly mob.
On top of all that, United had run Carrick out in the same vein before with a similar outcome.
If that does not define "clueless," it is hard to imagine what does.