This Manchester United squad is lumbered with a lot of unflattering attributes to lament. Erik ten Hag focused on his team's unpredictability following a dreary home defeat to Bournemouth.
"We are really inconsistent," the Dutchman moaned. "I think, as a squad, we are not good enough to be consistent and we have to work as a squad to improve that." Yet, Ten Hag may have been a bit hasty with his criticism. United can always be counted upon in certain circumstances.
Across Ten Hag's entire Manchester United's tenure, his side have invariably failed to defeat any of the Premier League's current top nine clubs away from home. In fact, United reliably implode on their travels against any side vaguely circling the division's elite.
Man Utd's winless away from home against the Premier League's top nine
Newcastle 1-1 Man Utd
Aston Villa 2-2 Man Utd
Man City 4-1 Man Utd
Liverpool 4-0 Man Utd
Arsenal 3-1 Man Utd
Brighton 4-0 Man Utd
Man City 6-3 Man Utd
Aston Villa 3-1 Man Utd
Arsenal 3-2 Man Utd
Liverpool 7-0 Man Utd
Newcastle 2-0 Man Utd
Tottenham 2-2 Man Utd
Brighton 1-0 Man Utd
West Ham 1-0 Man Utd
Tottenham 2-0 Man Utd
Arsenal 3-1 Man Utd
Newcastle 1-0 Man Utd
Liverpool 0-0 Man Utd
West Ham 2-0 Man Utd
Just before this bleak winless sequence began, Manchester United set a new Football League record of 29 consecutive away matches without defeat. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, improbably, was at the helm for that feat - which must have an asterisk next to it given how many games were played in empty stadiums - but his successors have found away trips far trickier.
Solskjaer specialised in big-ticket away days chiefly because he unashamedly set his side up to counterattack. United claimed three consecutive victories at Manchester City's Etihad Stadium under Solskjaer by sitting back and utilising the remarkable threat in transition posed by the likes of Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes.
The success of this strategy may have been behind Ten Hag's stated aim of turning Manchester United into "the best transitional side in the world". Yet, the team's desperately leaky rearguard robs the frontline of a strong foundation from which to spring forward.
United have conceded three or more goals in almost half of this 19-game stretch (nine games). This current squad has repeatedly displayed a worrying propensity to entirely collapse on the road.
Ten Hag's side only trailed Liverpool 1-0 at half-time on their visit to Anfield in March 2023. Yet, the Reds had scored twice within five minutes of the restart, prompting a burst of oles before the hour mark. As United's discipline evaporated and Liverpool continued to pile forward, the Anfield crowd got greedy. "We want six!" they chanted. Mohamed Salah duly obliged. "We want seven!" the roar went. Roberto Firmino got in on the act. The 7-0 evisceration that day was extreme - United last lost by such a margin in 1931 - but the pattern of implosion was painfully familiar.
On the same ground nine months earlier, a United side led by Ralf Rangnick was dismantled to the tune of 4-0. "It's embarrassing, it's disappointing, maybe even humiliating," Rangnick lamented, rating Liverpool as "six years ahead" of United.
"If you analyse the situation it is not difficult," the Austrian interim explained, "for me, it is clear there will be six, seven, eight, maybe ten new players. Before you sign those players you need to be aware how you want to play."
Ten Hag has overseen the permanent purchase of ten new players across his 18 months at the helm, with more than £380m spent. Yet, the problems still persist.
On United's first trip to the Etihad under Ten Hag, his side were 4-0 down before half-time. After Phil Foden completed his hat-trick, City's second of the game as Erling Haaland was also owed a match ball, the Etihad demanded: "We want ten!" It was a little too much to ask on that occasion, but not entirely out of the question given United's wretched record.
When did Man Utd last win away at a top nine club?
Solskjaer was still at the helm for United's last major away win, pitting his wits against Tottenham's Nuno Espirito Santo in October 2021. It was an open secret that the loser that night would lose their job, with a certain Antonio Conte waiting in the wings.
Cristiano Ronaldo rolled back the years to preserve Solskjaer's position for a little longer, providing a goal and an assist in a 3-0 win that ended Nuno's bleak tenure in N17. Edinson Cavani found the net with a deft dink over Hugo Lloris that night. Since then, the Uruguayan forward has played for two different clubs and reached the Copa Libertadores final.
Reflecting on the poor form United had suffered ahead of the contest, Solskjaer said: "Every time you lose a game it is the worst feeling in the world as a coach or manager." Luckily he hasn't been around for the current bleak stretch.
When do Man Utd next play a top nine club away from home?
United's next ominous away day is at the home of Aston Villa, on Saturday 10 February.
Unai Emery's first match in his remarkable tenure at Villa was a home debut against Manchester United. The former Arsenal boss hailed a dominant 3-1 win as "perfect" while Ten Hag sighed: "We didn't follow the rules of defending."
Villa have only gone from strength to strength in the intervening months, stringing together a commanding sequence of 15 consecutive home wins. Only three Premier League teams in the history of the competition have enjoyed longer victorious stretches.