Sunday 24th October 2021 was a day to forget for the Red Devils. Manchester United suffered one of their biggest defeats to arch rivals Liverpool ever at Old Trafford, shipping five goals as they were decimated 5-0.
That loss could have put the nail in the coffin for Ole Gunner Solsjkaer’s job. The Norwegian manager is a legend at Manchester United, but his 1999 heroics won’t do much good as he sees his side slip further and father down the Premier League table.
However, it is not the first time Manchester United have tasted defeat. Solskjaer can take solace in the fact that even the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson suffered big defeats from time to time.
A number of times his side let in multiple goals, and the players certainly felt the legendary “hairdryer treatment” in the changing rooms post-match.
Here are some of the biggest defeats Manchester United have suffered in the Premier League. Interestingly enough, every one of these defeats took place in October. I was shocked when I discovered this during my research, but it is true.
Manchester United Biggest Defeats
Newcastle 5-0 Manchester United – St James Park, 20th October 1996
The first 5-0 defeat of Manchester United was by their title rivals that year, Newcastle United. Led by the magisterial, if slightly tactically inept, Kevin Keegan, Newcastle United came their closest to winning the title in the mid to late 1990s.
The season before, Newcastle United look certain to win the Premier League. At one point, they sat 12 points above eventual winners Manchester United in the table. The title seemed certain for Kevin Keegan’s team, but an Eric Cantona return buoyed Manchester United to a surge in form, cutting Newcastle’s lead and eventually pipping them for the Premier League title.
This next season, Newcastle United challenged again, but fell short. Despite the addition of Alan Shearer to their exciting attacking team, featuring the likes of Les Ferdinand, David Ginola and Peter Beardsley, they once again were runners up to Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.
The wheels came off the club mid season, after a poor run of form led to the resignation of outspoken manager Kevin Keegan. Keegan had been a legend of the game, playing for the some of the worlds top teams. He won the European Cup with Liverpool, and lost the final later with Hamburg against Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest.
However, Kevin Keegan created one of the most entertaining sides in Premier League history. They simply attacked their opponents with speed and style. The addition of one of the top strikers in the world, Alan Shearer, made their attack even more exciting. Sadly, Keegan seemed to have been found out, and his tenure was over.
But they still had one top class performance in them. That came on the 20th October 1996, where they inflicted one of Manchester United’s biggest defeats of all time.
It was the match that caused the Newcastle owner Sir John Hall to gleefully decree “Gentleman, you’ve seen the next champions of England”.
Such was the display he’d just seen, you’d be inclined to believe him.
Newcastle took an early lead at St James Park. It took just twelve minutes for Darren Peacock to poke home from a corner. Anyone who’d think Newcastle be content to sit back and try to withstand the United barrage for 75 minutes had clearly never seen a Kevin Keegan side.
The second goal a masterpiece from French star David Ginola. He received the ball on the edge of the area, backed into and then turned Gary Neville, before firing the ball past Peter Schmeichel into the top corner.
At half time the teams changed ends, but not much else did. Alan Shearer beat his man on the right side, and floated an inch perfect ball into the six yard box. All that was left to do was head it in, which Les Ferdinand did gladly.
Shearer then got on the scoresheet himself, scoring from close range after a pair of brilliant saves from Peter Schmeichel. He started the move with a accurate cross field ball to Ginola, and finished it in the six yard box. In this game, Shearer really showed why he was the best striker in the world.
The fifth and final goal of the game was also the best of the lot. Centre back Phillip Albert, of Belgium, ran forward and executed an outrageous 25 yard deft chip over the head of Peter Schmeichel. It was one of the goals of the seasons and rounded off an incredible performance from Kevin Keegan’s entertainers.
Chelsea 5-0 Manchester United – Stamford Bridge, 3rd October, 1999
Going into this match, Manchester United were on a 29 game winning streak. They were the reigning Champions of England, but not just in the Premier League. United were coming off the back of their treble winning season. David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and co helped Manchester United win the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League , all in the 1999 season.
They seemed unbeatable.
So it came as a great shock when this result rolled in. The streak of 29 games without defeat came to an abrupt end at Stamford Bridge, when Chelsea inflicted Manchester United with one of their biggest defeats of all time.
The game started out as bad as you could possibly imagine for Manchester United. It took just 27 seconds for former Brighton manager Gus Poyet to fire the Blues ahead.
Manchester United had struggled to replace the legendary Peter Schmeichel in goal. The Dane was a commanding presence at the back, but he left after the 1999 treble winning season
However, his replacement did not impress the United fans, as he conceded five times with a dismal performance. He missed the ball completely as he rushed out, letting Poyet score the opening with a header. He was then beaten by another looping header from Poyet, and looked helpless in goal.
An early Nick Butt red card, for kicking out at Dennis Wise, meant that the game was almost lost for United. Three Chelsea goals later, and the domination was complete.
Chelsea 5-0 Manchester United, one of their biggest defeats in Premier League history.
Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City – Old Trafford, 23rd October, 2011
A turning of the tide took place at Old Trafford on a warm October Sunday. Noisy neighbours Manchester City travelled to Old Trafford, looking to stamp their mark on the top of the Premier League.
They hadn’t won the league since 1968, but Roberto Mancini had been backed by the Billionaire owners and looked on course to break that duck.
Superstars like Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Yaya Toure had come to form one of the best teams in the league, and the only person standing in their way was the imposing figure of Sir Alex Ferguson.
However, even he could not stop the runaway train that was Manchester City that season. They won the Premier League on the final day of the season in dramatic fashion.
They were a goal down against QPR with minutes to go, knowing a win would clinch them the title. Goals from Edin Dzeko and a last gasp winner from Sergio Aguero sent the home fans into raptures. They won the title on the final day, in the final minute. However, that wasn’t the biggest victory they had that season.
In late October, they travelled across the city to Old Trafford to face their biggest rivals. Manchester United were the defending Champions, and hoped to secure a twentieth Premier League title that season.
However, once the game kicked off there was only one result.
Manchester City fired six times past the hapless David De Gea. Mario Balotelli netted the first of his two in the first half. It was a good goal, with one of the most memorable celebrations in Premier League history. He drew first blood in what turned out to be Manchester United’s biggest Premier League defeat in over a decade.
After scoring, he lifted his shirt to reveal a three word message, “Why Always Me?”. He was regularly in the papers for a myriad of rumours, and this seemed like the perfect way to respond to them.
Five more goals from Balotelli, Aguero, Milner and Dzeko (2) sunk United, who managed to pull one back late on through Darren Fletcher. An early second half red card meant the game was over for United in the 47th minute, and the only thing they could attempt to do was survive.
The match was a turning point in the intra-Manchester rivalry. Manchester City would win the title that season, and establish themselves as the best team in Manchester.
Manchester United 1-6 Tottenham Hotspur – Old Trafford, 4th October 2020
The first big defeat of Ole Gunner Solskjaer’s reign as Manchester United boss, and certainly not the last.
Manchester United were not at their best at the beginning of this season. They had 3 points going into the match against Spurs, who were managed by former United boss Jose Mourinho.
Ole Gunner Solsjaker was Manchester United manager. He had brought a newfound hope to the club, but his tactical inadequacies were becoming more and more apparent. He relied solely on counter-attacking and individual brilliance from his team to win matches, and he was being found out.
Despite finishing second that season, it was clear that United lacked a style of play to identify with. Solskjaer limitations as a manager were apparent at Cardiff City, but magnified magnificently at a club the size of Manchester United.
Former Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho, sacked the year prior, too much glory in handing his former side their biggest defeat since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Manchester United 0-5 Liverpool – Old Trafford, 24th October 2021
Manchester United biggest defeat by Liverpool at Old Trafford. An embarrassing result for one of the biggest clubs in the country
This match, among others, outed Ole Gunner Solsjkaer as out of his depth. If his performance as Cardiff City manager didn’t make fans realise how inept he is tactically, this match does just that.
In the summer, Manchester United spent big to help close the gap between them and Manchester City. When United signed Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane from Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid, respectively, fans dared to dream about challenging for the title. When Cristiano Ronaldo made his triumphant Old Trafford return, then it was a must to challenge for the Premier League.
So far, that hasn’t happened. Manchester United seem as disjointed and tactically void more than ever before.
There is no style of play for United. If you look at Chelsea, Manchester United or Liverpool, you know exactly how they are going to play their game. You know exactly what they will do to beat their opponent and nobody can stop them. With Manchester United, they just hope if they give it to Bruno Fernandes, something will happen. There is no structure, there are no tactics, it’s just hit and hope.
The lack of tactical structure across the pitch became all too apparent in one of the darkest days in United’s on-pitch history. When Liverpool came to Old Trafford on October 24th 2021.
This was barely a football match for Liverpool. Despite winning the match 5-0, they never got out of second gear.
The gulf between the two teams was never more apparent. The saddest part of the game is that Liverpool never really had to try their hardest. The second half consisted of them holding on to the ball, and trying to avoid any tackles like Paul Pogba’s on Naby Keita.
The Manchester United defence looked nothing like the unit they should be. For the first goal, Liverpool passed through them like they weren’t even there. A typical breakaway somehow ended up on a three vs one situation, with the aforementioned Naby Keita to slot past David De Dea.
United’s defence absolutely fell apart. The lowlight being Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw banging heads, as they ran into each other before Mohammad Salah slotted home. The Egyptian scored a hat trick against the Red Devils, and showed himself to be one of the best players in the world.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.