Crystal Palace embarrassment could signal the end of another Manchester United manager

Francis, a seven-year-old Manchester United fan, participated in a half-time penalty contest. He was asked if he enjoyed the first half.

“No, not really,” he bluntly replied. Francis showed admirable restraint with his succinct analysis. The away followers in the Arthur Wait Stand will not have been as forgiving when the United players approached them.

They were crammed into two-and-a-half blocks and were United’s best performer, singing defiantly from kick-off until full-time. Gone are the days when United fans used to descend on Selhurst Park and outnumber its denizens for processions and celebrations.

This marked a Premier League-era record 13th defeat of the season. United have now lost 18 games overall, their most since Dave Sexton's first term in charge in 1977-78.

READ MORE: Player ratings as Casemiro and Eriksen awful at Crystal Palace

READ MORE: United slammed after 'car crash' defending

Sexton fell on his sword despite seven successive victories. Erik ten Hag will do well to record another win over the coming weeks. Ten Hag echewed the travelling supporters when the least they deserved was acknowledgement from the manager on another humiliating night.

The United manager vented at his players, at the fourth official and the referee. With every outburst, Ten Hag came closer to conceding. He looked beaten up. Oliver Glasner, responsible for the beating, was energetic and proactive in the nearby technical area.

"You're f*****g s**t," hollered the Palace supporters. They started the 'Ole's in the 75th minute at 4-0 and there was the obligatory rendition of “You’re getting sacked in the morning”.

United cannot qualify for the Champions League and there has always been a managerial change during, or at the end, of a season in that event. United will not qualify for Europe at this rate. They are eighth and in danger of finishing outside the top seven for the first time since 1990.

Watching Ten Hag stand motionless with his hands stuffed in his pockets, resigned to his fate as the scoreboard switched to 4-0, many will sympathise with the invidious position he is in. With European qualification in genuine jeopardy and an ominous FA Cup final circled in the calendar for May 25, there is an argument it is in the interests of all parties for an amicable divorce now.

Whatever excuse, context, mitigation or background Ten Hag offers, there is always a comeback. And it comes back to him. United's starting XI cost £404.5million. Two were academy graduates and two recruited on frees.

Nothing about United's performance or result was remotely shocking. Six teenagers were named in the squad and four have never started a professional game. They are making up the numbers for invaluable work experience.

Eberechi Eze toyed with United as though they were an under-age side. The four teenagers on the bench might have been more ebullient than some of the starters. The white-shirted players waved the white flag.

The first theme United fans sang about when the teams emerged was the FA Cup final and it continued after Palace altered the scoreboard. Jonny Evans was the only starter serenaded and Only a handful of current players have been this season.

United fans aired their songs of praise to Eric Cantona at the scene of two of his cleanest volleys. Selhurst was once a home from home but United are winless in their last four in south London and it is becoming a managerial graveyard.

Frank O'Farrell was dismissed after the infamous 5-0 thrashing away to Palace in 1972 and the ground signalled the end of Ralf Rangnick's interim era. Ten Hag was present that day and what he witnessed on Monday evening was undeniably worse. Palace almost emulated the ‘72 team but Odsonne Edouard’s curler smacked the upright in added time.

For the first time in his club career, Bruno Fernandes missed a match through injury. The absences of the United captain, Scott McTominay and Harry Maguire took the seasonal injury toll up to 64 with four fixtures remaining.

United have broken the 60 barrier for injuries and will struggle to do so for points. They are on 54 with three games remaining against Arsenal, Newcastle and Brighton - teams who beat them in the reverse fixtures this season.

Fernandes' absence afforded Mason Mount a first Premier League start in seven months. Mount will be judged definitively after a second season but the evidence suggests he lacks the skill set to lift the No.7 curse that weighs heavily on his shoulders.

Rasmus Hojlund broke his six-game duck against Sheffield United last week yet was a lame duck up front again. Kobbie Mainoo is lacking the effervescence he has oozed for most of his season, played a hospital pass by the midfield mismatch with Christian Eriksen.

The alternative to Eriksen was admittedly Sofyan Amrabat, starter of one game since December 17. But the United midfield is broken and Ten Hag is incapable of fixing it.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka was applauded back at his old haunt and Palace could offer him a route back in the summer. Wan-Bissaka switched back to left back, seemingly to deal with the silky Michael Olise.

United did not seem to consider Olise's mid-centre positioning in Palace's 3-4-2-1 formation. He dropped deep to collect the ball, lured Casemiro out of defence and then charged towards the condemned Evans. Olise’s shot was measured precisely.

This was United in a microcosm: no midfield, an exposed defence and a chasm between the defenders and the forwards. An incandescent Ten Hag screamed at someone by the halfway line.

Every United follower present in that crammed away section would take Olise over Antony, the first to be hooked. The Brazilian's recent goals have been false dawns and he lasted an hour.

Evans was exposed again for Jean-Philippe Mateta’s thumping goal. Evans, at 36, looked his age as Mateta dribbled past him as though he were no more of an obstacle than a training cone.

It would not be a United defeat without one of their hallmarks and they sieved two goals within ten minutes for the 15th time this season.

Francis at least found the back of the net.