West Ham United slumped out of the EFL Cup at the quarterfinal stage after receiving a 4-1 mauling at the hands of Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Manchester rivalled the Hammers early goal in last weekend's league game with a Zlatan Ibrahimovic strike before two minutes were up on the clock. Even so, although the visitors were under the cosh for long periods, Slaven Bilic's men managed to get an equaliser through ex-United man Ashley Fletcher and were all square at the break.
Sadly, the defensive frailties that have plagued the Hammers all season were on display again just after half-time, when Antony Martial put the home side 2-1 up after poor play by Dimitri Payet. Confidence visibly drained from Bilic's side as a result.
Having lost Aaron Cresswell to injury just before half-time, the Hammers never looked likely to pull the game back. When Martial scored his second just after the hour and Bilic withdrew Payet to save him for Saturday's league game against Arsenal, the travelling supporters voiced their displeasure.
With the home side spurning chances, West Ham had a couple of late opportunities to pull a goal back but there was no sense the team really felt they could win. When compared to the same stage in the FA Cup last season, when the Hammers reckoned they deserved more in a 1-1 draw, the differences were palpable.
Payet was the man who struck a stunning free kick in that game but, although still the most influential player for Bilic, the Frenchman looked disenchanted this time round. Being pulled from the game with 15 minutes still to play might be considered sensible with the way the Hammers have racked up the injuries at Old Trafford, but it still denotes a lack of faith and a fear that an International like Payet will find uninspiring.
Arthur Masuaku may have been bought as an able deputy for Cresswell but the £6 million buy from Olympiakos isn't the type of player who can provide the overlapping full-back or midfield service that the former Ipswich player provides. If, as looked likely, Cresswell's injury proves to be one that leaves him on the sidelines for weeks, Bilic will struggle to maintain his three centre-back formation.
Similarly, with Sunday's scorer Diafra Sakho out for six weeks with a thigh injury, the decision to play Fletcher could be said to have been vindicated with his goal but, in reality, the youngster was peripheral to most of the game. Fletcher did well to react to David De Gea's spilling of Payet's long shot, but it still seems surprising that the former Manchester youth player was picked. The Keighley-born 21-year-old is a strong prospect but it is asking too much to battle United's experienced defenders, even if returning to a ground where he had hoped to make his name was supposed to be the spur.
What was more damming was the fact that Bilic didn't feel Andre Ayew was worth using for the cup game. With no reported injury concerns, Ayew wasn't even on the bench. The former Swansea striker has had a long spell out with injury and desperately needs match practice if he is to provide a decent service up front. Talk now is that Andy Carroll is nearly ready for the first team and, once again, it seems Bilic is turning to those he trusts. A disturbing trend perhaps but then it is inevitable given what he is seeing on match days. Simone Zaza's 15 minute spell from the bench was awful, with an embarrassment of wayward kicks and tame headers. It's hard to see how he has any future at the club on this showing.
On the back of the cup form, Bilic won't be relishing the visit of Arsenal to the London Stadium on Saturday. With only one loss all season, the Gunners have shown an extra intensity this season that they have often been accused of lacking. The North London outfit have always proved hard opposition for the Hammers and, with Michail Antonio also limping off at Old Trafford, once again the famous Hammers' injury hoodoo has come to blight what little chance the team might have.
As if Bilic hadn't enough to contend with, several fan forums are trying to get a protest going at the game against Arsenal. Many supporters are unhappy about the way things have gone at the London Stadium and there has been talk of not going into the ground before kick off, wearing coloured hats and specific protests at the Board. However, with the Chapecoense tragedy issuing a minute's silence pregame, it's to be hoped any protests, if there are any, will be vocal only and take place during the game itself.
With the run-in to Christmas just beginning, life in Stratford is not as rosy as everyone had hoped.