Woeful away days illuminate Manchester United's puzzling timidity

Traces of attacking intent were all too scarce for an apprehensive Manchester United as it turned in a poor away performance at West Ham in Premier League on Sunday.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.   -  Getty Images

Chelsea is seen as the new model for the benefits of youthful exuberance but it is Manchester United which has, on average, fielded the youngest starting XI in the Premier League this season.

It is United, too, which has not won a single competitive match away from home in over six months.

That despite a demand from David de Gea leading into an excursion south to right the wrongs of previous ventures outside Manchester and of last season's 3-1 loss at the London Stadium.

Instead, the venue became the scene of another miserable road defeat as West Ham earned a relatively routine 2-0 victory over the Red Devils on Sunday.

De Gea, newly committed to a four-year contract, implored his team-mates to be "much more switched on" than they were in the September 2018 defeat,  which condemned the club to its worst league start in 29 years.

It was obvious the goalkeeper's words had not been heeded when Mark Noble was gifted a lifetime to find Felipe Anderson on the edge of the area moments before half-time.

The Brazilian in turn fed Andriy Yarmolenko and his intelligent finish dashed United's chances of recording what it hoped would be a first clean sheet in 11 games in all competitions.

Hope, more than anything, appeared to be United's recipe for success.

Solskjaer's men mustered a paltry two shots in a sleep-inducing first half, equal to the number they managed in a 1-1 draw at Wolves last month.

Attacking options might be sparse - this is, of course, a team that happily parted with Romelu Lukaku - but an adventurous spirit in challenging environments is not purely the domain of Manchester City or Liverpool.

Indeed, Chelsea has won admirers this term as much for the three goals netted at Carrow Road and five at Molineux as the ages of the players doing the scoring.

Youth is supposed to bring a sense of free-wheeling fun to proceedings but all it has done for United is expose a set of directionless players to repeated Roy Keane reprimands.

The former captain's criticism arrived as to be expected after the final whistle, De Gea having not long earlier failed to keep out an Aaron Cresswell free-kick, which compounded the loss of Marcus Rashford to injury.

It must surely be more empowering and emblematic of 'The United Way' for the club's emerging prospects to be educated first and foremost to attack the opposition as often as possible.

Yet whether in London or the Midlands or on the south coast, Solskjaer's side seem scared to indulge in risk.

Away days will continue to be their undoing for as long as less glamorous opponents are afforded the opportunity to settle in familiar surrounds, as West Ham did all too easily.

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