Quite often in football, the final outcome can flatter the winning side. That absolutely wasn’t the case at Old Trafford on Sunday where Liverpool were several classes apart from United.
The Premier League era is rightly regarded as a highly successful one for United – after all, they won 13 titles between 1993 and 2013 – but they have been on the receiving end of some thrashings too and that list has just grown a little longer.
Manchester United were humiliated 5-0 by Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday – but where does the result rank among their worst Premier League embarrassments?
The Old Trafford scoreboard told you everything you needed to know about the performance
Even Sir Alex Ferguson’s great teams weren’t immune from an off-day and certainly his successors in the dug-out endured their fair share too.
None less than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has suffered several indignities during his near three years in the Old Trafford hotseat.
So where does Sunday’s result rank in the top 10 United humblings during the Premier League era?
10. Middlesbrough 4 Manchester United 1
October 29, 2005
What is most surprising looking back on this shocker on Teesside is that United actually had a decent team out for what is widely considered a ‘transitional’ period under Fergie.
Among the starters were Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Edwin van der Sar and Ruud van Nistelrooy, while a young Cristiano Ronaldo came off the bench.
There were certainly worse sides fielded by United during that period but this October night at the Riverside was just a comedy of errors.
John O’Shea, Paul Scholes, Darren Fletcher and Rio Ferdinand (left to right) are stunned as United lose 4-1 at Middlesbrough in October 2005
Van der Sar let Gaizka Mendieta’s shot slip through his fingers for the opener wile Ferdinand’s error led to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink doubling the lead.
Kieran Richardson conceded a penalty which Yakuku converted for 3-0 and Mendieta made it four before a Ronaldo consolation.
‘It was a shocking performance. We conceded some terrible goals and we cannot afford to do that with what we are trying to achieve,’ fumed Fergie.
Even at that relatively early stage of the campaign, it was obvious United weren’t going to keep up with Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. They would end up second, eight points behind, but their strength was building again.
Edwin van der Sar watches on helplessly as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink scores Boro’s second
9. Manchester United 1 Liverpool 4
March 14, 2009
This was a rare season when both United and Liverpool went up against one another in the Premier League title race.
There was certainly no love-lost between Ferguson and Rafa Benitez and the Spaniard’s infamous ‘facts’ press conference two months earlier suggested mind games weren’t his speciality.
United looked to be streaking away with the title in March but Liverpool certainly checked their progress with a memorable victory at Old Trafford.
Fernando Torres ran Nemanja Vidic and United’s defence ragged as Liverpool won 4-1 in 2009
Nemanja Vidic spent the afternoon chasing but not quite catching Fernando Torres with the United defender’s frustrations ultimately ending up in a red card for dragging down Steven Gerrard.
A Ronaldo penalty had United ahead in the first-half but Liverpool roared back with Torres equalising and then Gerrard’s penalty after Patrice Evra fouled the Reds captain.
Fabio Aurelio brilliantly curled home the free-kick that resulted from the Vidic red and Andrea Dossena ran straight through to add a fourth in stoppage time.
When United lost at Fulham the following weekend, Liverpool had cause to hope they may hunt them down.
But Federico Macheda’s 93rd-minute winner against Aston Villa gave United a second wind and in the end they romped to the title by four points.
Liverpool fired in four goals at Old Trafford but couldn’t change the outcome of the title race
8. Chelsea 4 Manchester United 0
October 23, 2016
Just a couple of months into Jose Mourinho’s tenure at United and a visit to his old club was supposed to show how much progress had been made.
Instead, Chelsea ran riot to leave him humiliated as a gleeful Stamford Bridge crowd sang ‘you’re not special any more’ at the man who’d delivered them so much success.
United just weren’t at the races and conceded just 30 seconds in when Pedro waltzed through the back line to score.
Jose Mourinho was humiliated on his first return to Stamford Bridge with Manchester United
Pedro rounds David de Gea to score for Chelsea after only 30 seconds – the first of four goals
Gary Cahill, Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante sealed a thoroughly one-sided win and the goal tally could easily have been much higher.
It was the heaviest defeat suffered by a Mourinho team since Real Madrid lost 5-0 to Barcelona in 2010.
Antonio Conte’s Chelsea were only getting going as it transpired and they won the Premier League title with ease.
Mourinho’s United limped into sixth place but they won the EFL Cup and the Europa League. They are the last pieces of silverware in the United trophy cabinet.
The result showed how much rebuilding needed to be done for new United boss Mourinho
7. Everton 4 Manchester United 0
April 21, 2019
Solskjaer may have done enough to earn the United job permanently but his honeymoon period was well and truly over by the time of this thrashing.
Everton ruthlessly exposed all the shortcomings of a United side that had found themselves on a real roll under the Norwegian a couple of months earlier.
But a Champions League exit to Barcelona, a FA Cup defeat at Wolves and league losses to Arsenal and Wolves saw dark clouds begin to obscure the clear blue skies.
Paul Pogba remonstrates with his team-mates as United are thrashed 4-0 by Everton in 2019
And this result just underlined the scale of the rebuilding job Solskjaer would need to complete post-Mourinho.
Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Lucas Digne and Theo Walcott were all on target to seriously dent United’s top four ambitions and it was the prelude to a dreadful end to the season that saw them finish sixth in the end.
At one stage United managed to string three passes together and received ironic cheers from their travelling fans at Goodison Park.
It was an abject performance even worse than the one on the same ground that led to David Moyes being fired in 2014.
Solskjaer offers a hand of apology to the travelling United fans at Goodison after a bad result
6. Southampton 6 Manchester United 3
October 26, 1996
Not the finest week in the history of Manchester United. Six days after that 5-0 beating at the hands of Newcastle (more on that later), they went to The Dell and shipped six to Southampton.
The previous season, Ferguson’s team had gone to the same ground and been forced to ditch their grey kits at half-time because the players couldn’t see one another.
David Beckham slides in but can’t halt Eyal Berkovic as Southampton smashed United for six
This time they took the field in blue and white stripes but were even worse. It wasn’t helped by Roy Keane’s 20th-minute red card at just 1-0 down but even so, to concede six to a relegation-threatened team like Southampton was shocking.
Eyal Berkovic and Egil Ostenstad scored twice each, Matt Le Tissier inevitably got on the scoresheet and a Phil Neville own goal was a further indignity late on.
David Beckham, David May and Paul Scholes managed to score with United numerically challenged in a thriller for the neutral but one to forget for Ferguson and his players.
Despite this autumn sticky patch, United would go on to win their fourth title in five seasons.
Matt Le Tissier is congratulated on his goal as United were humiliated on the south coast
5. Chelsea 5 Manchester United 0
October 3, 1999
United came into this match on a 29-match unbeaten run in the Premier League, a sequence that had helped sweep them to their historic Treble.
They knew such a brilliant run must end sometime but a five-goal tonking at the hands of Chelsea probably wasn’t what they predicted.
Like that 2016 game, Chelsea scored inside the first minute through Gustavo Poyet when calamity keeper Massimo Taibi – this was a week after his Southampton gaffe – collided with Denis Irwin when trying to claim a cross.
United goalkeeper Massimo Taibi collides with Denis Irwin, allowing Gustavo Poyet to score
Chris Sutton made it 2-0 before Nicky Butt was shown a red card for an ill-advised little kick out at Dennis Wise. Poyet’s second, a Henning Berg own goal and a fifth scored by Jody Morris rounded off an afternoon to forget.
Chelsea were upwardly mobile at the time and this result marked them out as potential challengers to United.
Not a bit of it. United only lost twice more all season and won the league by a colossal 18 points.
Nicky Butt hits out at Dennis Wise, earning the red card that ensured no United comeback
4. Manchester United 1 Tottenham Hotspur 6
October 4, 2020
Ten months before this one, United had ended a blip in form by beating Tottenham 2-1 at Old Trafford and Solskjaer celebrated by giving his predecessor Mourinho a quite patronising pat on the head.
The following season, Mourinho certainly gained his revenge, returning to Old Trafford and stuffing six past his old club. How he would have wished the Covid pandemic hadn’t prevented a full house witnessing it.
It was only three games into the season but the result left United 16th in the table and things were looking very gloomy for Solskjaer.
Son Heung-min beats David de Gea and Luke Shaw to score in Tottenham’s 6-1 win over United
The game started perfectly, with Bruno Fernandes converting a second minute penalty. But Tanguy Ndombele equalised almost immediately and Son Heung-min put Spurs ahead on seven minutes.
United were being outplayed and their afternoon further unravelled when Anthony Martial was sent off for dragging his hand across Erik Lamela’s face in retaliation for an elbow to the neck.
United’s defenders have no idea where to look as Tottenham scored six at Old Trafford
Spurs ruthlessly took full advantage with Harry Kane (twice), Son again and Serge Aurier inflicting the heaviest loss of the post-Ferguson era.
‘It’s very embarrassing, it hurt all the players. It hurts me as the manager, it’s my worst day ever,’ said Solskjaer.
‘To win 6-1 against Manchester United at Old Trafford is an honour for all of us, considering the dimension of Manchester United and Old Trafford,’ said Mourinho.
And so did Mourinho pat Solskjaer on the head at the final whistle? You bet he did.
Jose Mourinho can’t resist giving Solskjaer a pat on the back of the head at the final whistle
3. Newcastle United 5 Manchester United 0
October 20, 1996
A result so resounding at the time and still talked fondly about by Newcastle fans. Their great entertainers of the mid-1990s may not have beaten Man United to the title but they always had this afternoon.
It came a few months after Kevin Keegan had cracked up live on Sky Sports as they chucked away a 12-point lead to lose the title to Ferguson’s side.
All the pent-up frustration was unleashed one soggy Sunday afternoon in October 1996.
Alan Shearer and Les Ferdinand celebrate during Newcastle’s unforgettable 5-0 win in 1996
Darren Peacock’s opener was adjudged to have just crossed the line – no goalline technology back then – before Irwin cleared it away but there was no stopping David Ginola’s stunning second that curled around Peter Schmeichel.
Les Ferdinand headed in off the woodwork for 3-0 and then Alan Shearer, who’d rejected Old Trafford to return home to Tyneside that summer, thrashed in the fourth.
The fifth goal is by far the most remembered. Philippe Albert delivering a delicious lob of Schmeichel from 30 yards. The icing on the cake.
In the end, Newcastle would finish seven points behind the champions.
Philippe Albert celebrates scoring a sumptuous fifth goal as Newcastle ran riot
2. Manchester United 1 Manchester City 6
October 23, 2011
You could argue there isn’t much between these final two – separated by a decade almost to the day.
The 6-1 loss to City comes second by a wafer-thin margin mainly for the fact United trailed only 3-1 entering the final minute and were still chasing late goals despite Jonny Evans’ sending off.
City continually broke away, however, and added three more goals essentially in stoppage time to convert what was already a highly respectable away win into an immortal scoreline.
Mario Balotelli reveals his famous ‘why always me?’ t-shirt after opening the scoring for City
It is a game that can be viewed as the point where the balance of power in Manchester shifted but that’s only possible with the benefit of hindsight.
On the day itself, City were merely astonished about what they’d accomplished, the afternoon playing out like some kind of perfect dream.
They led through Mario Balotelli on 22 minutes, the Italian striker lifting up his shirt to reveal that brilliant ‘Why always me?’ message underneath.
Defender Evans saw red just after the interval for hauling Balotelli down and that allowed Roberto Mancini’s City to take control. Balotelli and Sergio Aguero extended the lead to 3-0 before Darren Fletcher pulled one back.
David Silva scores City’s fifth goal as they continued to pile on the misery in stoppage time
Somehow United felt they could still win the game and continued to attack, leaving wide open spaces for City to walk through. Edin Dzeko scored twice either side of David Silva’s goal, all after the 89th minute.
‘We just kept attacking. At 4-1, we should have just said, ‘we’ve had our day’ but we kept attacking with our full-backs forward and leaving them three against two. It was crazy, crazy football,’ said Ferguson.
‘It was a bad day, no doubt about that. It’s our worst ever day.’
A costly one, too, given that City would ultimately pip United to the title on goal difference.
The Old Trafford scoreboard shows a scoreline that has gone down in Premier League history
1. Manchester United 0 Liverpool 5
October 24th, 2021
Which leaves Sunday as United’s most humiliating Premier League defeat.
Yes, it was probably expected that Liverpool would take three points from Old Trafford. What was not expected was they would be four goals up at half-time, completely outclassing a United side repeatedly ripped to shreds.
To think that Solskjaer’s side had pretension of challenging for the Premier League title this season. That idea can be consigned to the dustbin and the manager could yet pay with his job.
Victor Lindelof cuts a dejected figure as Liverpool celebrate their second goal on Sunday
It was a like being in a living nightmare for Solskjaer, who was totally powerless to alter the course of events as his team failed in all areas of the field.
Naby Keita and Diogo Jota’s early goal put Liverpool in command before it became the Mohamed Salah show with a hat-trick.
At 5-0 down, Paul Pogba was sent off for a reckless tackle on Keita just to compound matters and from there is was fortunate for United that Liverpool didn’t score even more goals.
It will certainly be a long way back to the top for United from this fresh nadir.
Mohamed Salah scores the fifth for Liverpool as United’s defenders play hopeless catch-up