Neil Humphreys: Manchester United wait for miracle that won’t happen
Forget the 1999 treble, the Red Devils must accept they are stuck with the wrong manager
Shooting Bambi is an easier proposition than criticising Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
His likeability made the Norwegian such an amenable player, happy to come off the bench and do his bit in the 1999 Champions League final.
But, as a manager, such a quality seems to be kryptonite.
Nice guys may not finish last, but nice managers with a one-dimensional game plan and erratic recruitment can't beat an average Arsenal side.
Blind faith can be an admirable trait, as long as the Solskjaer apologists accept that a decent finish in the English Premier League looks a distant pipe dream.
From Gary Neville to even Roy Keane, the loyalty still shown towards Solskjaer is truly commendable, but it's like listening to an owner make excuses for a wide-eyed puppy that's still peeing on the carpet after 18 months.
The smell gets harder to hide after a while and the Red Devils mostly stank at Old Trafford. They have failed to prevail in any of their first four home league games for the first time since the 1972-73 season.
Relegation followed in 1974, when the boardroom incorrectly assumed that club legends and starry signings would be enough to halt the slide.
History won't repeat itself in a literal sense. The financial chasm is too vast for United to ponder relegation, but the focus on a manager's club connections rather than his actual pedigree is doing more harm than good.
There will be no second miracle to rival that magical night against Bayern Munich in '99.
A Lazarus-like redemption is not likely, as long as United are without a reliable centre-back and defensive midfielder.
Further transfer windows are not going to fix the underlying problem that was self-evident against Arsenal, but too awkward to discuss among partisan pundits.
Solskjaer was taken to school. A younger, less experienced coach outfoxed his tactics.
As Neville reluctantly acknowledged in his analysis, Solskjaer picked a line-up and a formation that suited only those in Arsenal jerseys.
Having spent £35 million (S$62m) on a midfielder he didn't need, Solskjaer tried to accommodate four of six midfielders and plumped for a diamond that benefited no one (and Donny van de Beek still hasn't started a league game).
Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba were forced out wide, leaving a gap large enough for Mohamed Elneny to dominate alongside the outstanding Thomas Partey (a terrific example of a smart signing slotting straight in).
A diamond usually depends upon wing-backs tearing forward at every opportunity. Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are not those wing-backs.
Instead, Solskjaer relied on his tried and tepid approach of sitting deep, conceding possession and hoping to spring the odd counter-attack - at home, against weakened opposition. United were as naive as they were insipid.
Mikel Arteta took charge, pushing Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin forward to exploit the hosts' lack of width.
The Gunners are a work in progress, too, but there's a plan. Compared to Solskjaer, Arteta has been in the job half the time and done twice the planning.
The Spaniard made key signings and ruthlessly jettisoned unwanted superstars, refusing to be influenced by either salary or stature.
In an almost poignant comparison, Pogba spent the game isolated on the left before conceding another clumsy penalty. Mesut Oezil spent the game on Twitter.
Four years have passed since Pogba's return and Neville continues to fiddle with his tactics board in the Sky Sports studio in the vague hope of finding the Frenchman's best position on behalf of his friend in the dugout.
And yet, United still haven't found a natural home for their World Cup winner. The same could be said for McTominay, Fred, Nemanja Matic and even van de Beek.
Who goes where and in what formation? What happens when Chelsea sit back or Tottenham Hotspur surge through the middle or Arsenal press through their wing-backs?
Solskjaer had no answers. He just had apologies. The nicest man in management is always the first to apologise after each defeat. He's had plenty of practice.
United are 15th in the table with seven points from six games. Their manager still seems unsure of his midfield, his formation, his latest signing and his mercurial superstar.
He can't get the best out of any of the above and still lacks a cohesive template for progress.
And maybe that's fine. There's no divine right to success. Perhaps expectations have begrudgingly shifted and Solskjaer simply offers a romantic link to better times, when the Red Devils really were kings.
As long as he remains in the dugout, United will always have 1999. But they won't have anything else this season.