Manchester United Have Lost Their Swagger As Defensive Breakdowns Continue

Pauly KwestelCorrespondent IOctober 16, 2010

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 16:  Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United looks dejected during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford on October 16, 2010 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

It is no secret that Manchester United have had several problems on defense this season. At first they only happened when the team was away from Old Trafford but the mistakes slowly crept towards Old Trafford in the match against Liverpool. The issues finally reached a breaking point in Saturday's match against West Bromwich Albion. 

That's right, it is time to go ahead and press the panic button. Many fans had already been trying  but were reminded by cooler heads that it was still early, that United would put it together.

But now, it is no longer early—the time has come.

United have now dropped points in five matches, three in which they had the lead, two in which they had a two-goal lead. The biggest one came when they blew a 2-0 halftime lead at home to West Bromwich Albion. 

Manchester United started this game off brilliantly looking like they finally had found the killer instinct they had been lacking all season. That is, the instinct to go out there and annihilate opponents from start to finish, something that Chelsea has done many times this season whereas United have not. 

United scored two early goals and could have easily had more. They were in complete control of the game. Then came halftime. 

After the break, United were quickly undone by a Patrice Evra own-goal and an awful, uncharacteristic mistake by goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar. 

Later in the second half is when it became noticeable—West Bromwich Albion was not looking at Old Trafford like it was a fortress. They were not scared of Manchester United. 

This is West Bromwich Albion. Yes, they are off to a great start and sit just two points behind United, but this is a team that has never been able to consistently stay in the Premier League. A friend of mine once described WBA as "not good enough to play in the Premier League, but too good to play in the Championship."

West Bromwich Albion is a team that lost 6-0 to Chelsea on the league's first day. 

Old Trafford used to be a fortress. It was unheard of for a team that just got promoted to the Premier League to come into Old Trafford and attack Manchester United. Usually, newly promoted sides play a defensive game, hoping to keep a clean sheet or concede only one goal. They hope to get lucky and steal a goal off of a set piece and come out with either a 1-1 or 0-0 draw.

But not West Bromwich Albion. 

West Bromwich Albion were not afraid. They had no problems attacking United. In the second half with the game level, West Brom did not just sit back and protect, trying to hold onto the one point they had secured. They went for the kill shot, looking for the win. West Brom had no problem pushing men up the field on the counter attack, even if it meant leaving their back slightly exposed. 

On the American broadcast of the game, ESPN2 commentator Steve McManamon commented that with about five minutes left Manchester United assistant manager Mike Phelan was on the touchline urging many United players forward, telling them to go ahead and take risks. He went on to say that Manchester United wasn't sureabout what they were doing. 

He was right, but since when do United not know what they are doing? They have done this many times before. How many times have we seen United score a late winner or late equalizer in the final moments of the game? They have done this several times before, but against WBA it looked like they didn't know what they were doing. 

Manchester United seemed lost and unable to figure out just how they were supposed to grab a winner. West Bromwich Albion showed no fear and sent players attacking to try to find a winner. These are tell-tale signs that there is something wrong with Manchester United—the swagger of champions no longer rests inside of them.