The Red Devils called-off their usual warm-down session in the aftermath of their defeat to Southampton as concerns over the Dutch coach's suitability continue to grow
For the first time under manager Louis van Gaal, the day after a match was not spent enduring a 45-90 minute run-out together for the United first team. Van Gaal is a stickler for rules, regularity and repetition. The former Barcelona boss has even called his squad in just hours after they have returned from European trips this season.
So granting Sunday as a day off represents a highly unusual move. Van Gaal's decision to return to the Netherlands for his daughter's birthday will raise eyebrows, coming as it does on the back of United’s 1-0 defeat to Southampton on Saturday.
Saturday's defeat left the Red Devils five points behind Tottenham in the race for a top-four place. The Dutch boss's win rate of 49 per cent is now the worst of any United manager in the last 30 years. While more than two decades of that time was taken up by the Sir Alex Ferguson era, David Moyes may feel slightly aggrieved that he was not given more time given the stays of execution Van Gaal has survived.
READ MORE | VIDEO: Fans fully turn on Van Gaal after Southampton loss
How much longer United will tolerate the results – and even as importantly, the performances – is the overriding question surrounding Old Trafford and Carrington these days. Whether Van Gaal himself will stick to the remaining 17 months on his current contract has also been brought sharply into question in recent weeks.
The result brings about a new low for Van Gaal as his team registered just one shot on target - a speculative 30-yard effort from Daley Blind in the first half - and struggled to create any other goalscoring opportunities of note as the joy of beating rivals Liverpool six days earlier was forgotten. The chorus of boos that greeted Saturday’s performance, the strength of ill-feeling towards the current regime that reached a new nadir on Saturday, will not have been lost on the United board.
Sources at the club have told Goal that the mood among the backroom staff and players was at its lowest ebb after the final whistle, and reports of Jose Mourinho's "love letter" to the Old Trafford hierarchy will have done little to improve the mood with Van Gaal.
Though the former Chelsea boss's representatives deny their client has made contact with the 20-time English champions regarding a possible role in the future, his spectre continues to loom large over the red side of Manchester.
United have also been forced to deny they met with Pep Guardiola in Paris over the past few days, and while the Bayern Munich boss is highly likely to turn up at Manchester City rather than their local rivals, viable alternatives to Van Gaal being on the market only makes his position less secure.
Promoting assistant manager Ryan Giggs was always the plan when Van Gaal first took over the reins in the summer of 2014, but the former star pupil of Ferguson continues to be tainted by his relationship with the current era and whether he would offer anything different.
Former chief executive David Gill, whose own replacement Ed Woodward has hardly covered himself in glory in terms of player recruitment in recent year, has even urged Giggs to look elsewhere for his first management position.
"It is an interesting question and it will be something Ryan will be thinking about and discussing with the powers that be within Manchester United," Gill told BBC Sport on Sunday.
"I don't disagree with the notion that you can't be a number two forever. You have to go out and prove you have what it takes and that you can do it in the firing line.
"There are clearly different traits required to be a number two and be in the hotseat as a number one."
Gill also hit out at United's style of play, claiming he could not "sit here and say it is that attractive", and while Ferguson's swashbuckling teams remain fresh in the memory the detractors are unlikely to go away any time soon.
Van Gaal's style is one thing, but failing to get results with such a philosophy is proving to be the final straw for many United fans, while even the 64-year-old's decision to relax his strict lunch rules this week have failed to improve issues that remain inside the United dressing room.
His time in the Premier League is becoming messier by the week, and there is a feeling the man himself knows it. Arguments with journalists have only added to his issues, and the writing is now on the wall as to whether Van Gaal will be around come the opening day of the 2016-17 campaign.
The underlying belief that United are likely to stick by their man until the end of the campaign and hope the players can arrest their poor form in a bid to qualify for the Champions League weakens by the day.
As before, all eyes remain fixed on the club and the manager for all the wrong reasons.