Liverpool became the first reigning English champions to concede seven goals in a league match since 1953 and Manchester United were thrashed 6-1 as inquests started after a humiliating day for England’s two most successful clubs.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side thought they had grabbed the headlines for all the wrong reasons against Tottenham on Sunday but Jurgen Klopp’s team upstaged them in a scarcely credible 7-2 defeat against Aston Villa.
Klopp can argue Liverpool’s defeat is a bizarre one-off after an impressive start to the season but United appear to be in deep trouble as the international transfer deadline looms on Monday.
Liverpool, who romped to the title by 18 points in the 2019/20 campaign, went into their match at an empty Villa Park with a 100 percent record in the league this season.
They were missing first-choice goalkeeper Alisson Becker through injury and were also without Sadio Mane and Thiago Alcantara, who have both tested positive for coronavirus, but were still expected to have too much for their opponents.
But Villa forward Ollie Watkins scored a first-half hat-trick and Jack Grealish had a hand in five goals as Liverpool’s high line was torn apart by the home side’s counter-attacking.
“It was unexpected but it happened tonight,” said Klopp, whose side lost just four league matches over the previous two seasons.
“We put all our rubbish things and mistakes in one game and hopefully we can start again.”
The Liverpool boss said he was desperate to get his players back on the training pitch but they are now heading off for an international break before gathering again for a tough-looking challenge at table-topping Everton.
“I would love to have a training session tomorrow and Tuesday and to talk about it, but the boys go back off to international duty,” Klopp said. “Hopefully they come back healthy and we use the two days to prepare for Everton.”
– United woes –
While Liverpool will hope their result is an anomaly, there is plenty of evidence that United have lost their way.
The Old Trafford club have not competed for the Premier League title since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 but hopes were high after they finished third last season.
That optimism has been misplaced, with United soundly beaten 3-1 at home by Crystal Palace and incredibly fortunate to escape with a 3-2 victory at Brighton last weekend.
But they sank to a new low at an echoing Old Trafford on Sunday as Harry Kane and Son Heung-min ran riot, scoring two goals apiece against the home side, who were reduced to 10 men after the first-half sending-off of Anthony Martial.
Former United defender Gary Neville, now a TV pundit, described their performance as “an absolute shambles” as they matched their 6-1 loss to Manchester City in 2011.
United’s players were fortunate there were no supporters in the ground to witness the rout.
Club captain Harry Maguire apologised to fans in an Instagram post, saying the performance was “unacceptable” and Marcus Rashford said there were no excuses.
Solskjaer took the blame for the humiliation, which once again raises major questions about whether he is the man to restore the club to their former glories.
“It’s a horrible feeling, the worst day I’ve had as a Manchester United manager and player,” said the Norwegian manager.
“It’s nowhere near good enough. I hold my hands up. It’s my decision to pick the team I did. Also as a squad, that’s not good enough for Manchester United.”
The chastening defeat comes at the end of another difficult transfer window for United, who look to have failed in their pursuit of their number one target, Borussia Dortmund forward Jadon Sancho.
Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani is reportedly set to join the Red Devils after leaving Paris Saint-Germain, but it is at the other end of the pitch that United are most in need of reinforcements.
Brazil left-back Alex Telles appears likely to arrive from Porto but it does not look enough to shore up a leaky defence that has shipped 11 goals in three Premier League matches.
While Liverpool remain favourites to win a second successive Premier League table despite their humbling, United already look out of the running as they scramble for answers.