The reigning Premier League champion was humiliated in a 4-1 defeat to rival Man City at the Etihad Stadium, putting pressure on the new Old Trafford boss already.David Moyes took on the impossible job of succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson knowing he faced the sternest of challenges in Manchester United’s early-season fixtures, but he could never have anticipated such a humiliating defeat in his first derby.
It was beyond dreadful, a day to forget. Moyes made it clear in his post-match press conference that he had made the players aware in no uncertain that they had produced an unacceptable performance.
The Scot can only hope that the David Moyes hairdryer treatment can have the same galvanizing affect as that of his predecessor.
In three major Premier League tests - against Chelsea, Liverpool and City - Moyes has now picked up just one point and scored a solitary goal, Wayne Rooney’s late free-kick at the Etihad on Sunday.
The parallels with the 6-1 defeat to City at Old Trafford in 2011-12 are inescapable, the echoes of a day Ferguson described as his “worst ever” in his 26 years in charge of the club.
|VIEW FROM THE ETIHAD STADIUM
|Where do you start with that? For every department in which Manchester City excelled, its bitter rival was equally woeful.
City was too strong for United technically, mentally, tactically and physically and blew the Red Devils away with four goals in the first 50 minutes to put the game beyond reach. It was City’s best big-match performance in more than a year.
Sergio Aguero’s finishing was masterful for his two goals, Yaya Toure dominated the midfield and deserved his goal, while Samir Nasri, scorer of the fourth, was my man of the match.
United has faced a tough run of early fixtures, but on this evidence the club lacks the quality to even challenge to retain its Premier League title this season. The only bright point for David Moyes after a dreadful derby debut will be the performance of goalscorer Wayne Rooney.
But Manchester is blue today and Manuel Pellegrini’s side has made a statement - both within this city and to the rest of the Premier League.
On that occasion, City scored three goals in the dying minutes to humiliate their rivals; this time United was hung, drawn and quartered within five minutes of the second half. If anything, it was even worse, so total was City’s dominance from the first whistle.
Moyes pointed to the fixture list as a major reason behind United’s worst start to a campaign since the 2004-05 season. “I think any manager would have found it difficult taking over the club with that run of fixtures. If those games were later in the season I might have had a better understanding.”
Moyes will be grateful that United now has an eminently winnable run of fixtures to ease some of the early pressure and respond to the psychological blow of such a heavy defeat to a title rival.
The visiting supporters, to their credit, stuck behind the team and their manager, chanting throughout and staying until the end of the match despite the uncomfortable taunts from the City fans.
It all started to go wrong for Moyes with the news that Robin van Persie would not risk a painful groin injury, despite training over the last two days.
Moyes admitted the obvious; that United was “second to things” and “never got to grips” with the aggression, speed and technique of the City players.
In the first half, he bravely tried to turn the tide as he barked instructions from his technical area, imploring Marouane Fellaini to get closer to Yaya Toure, barking at Rio Ferdinand to watch Sergio Aguero’s movement.
In the second half, he knew the game was up and never once left his seat on the bench, instead ramping up the voltage on the hairdryer before giving United’s players a piece of his mind.
The major question over Moyes on his appointment surrounded his ability to handle the greater pressure, the weekly expectation and how he could pit his wits against the best managers and teams on the continent.
Moyes, after all, failed to win a derby at Liverpool in 11 years as Everton manager and saw his side embarrassed here.
He was handed the impossible job of replacing Sir Alex Ferguson - but with this result he may reflect that it will be even harder than even he imagined.
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