"My attitude is to completely forget it. It never happened," Sir Alex Ferguson said yesterday but the residual effects of the day he has described as "the worst result in my history – ever" were written all across his face.
The Manchester United manager tends to bound with vim and vigour into the first press conference after a catastrophe like the 6-1 derby defeat and, though there was a promise that events at Everton today will "show Manchester United in our proper light", he lacked the fight to deal with the fact that United have conceded more shots on goal than any other Premier League side this season: 168. "I can't deny your stats but we know about them. We're aware of that," the manager said. "We can analyse [the defeat] as much as we want but it's not going to do us any good."
There are more hospitable places to rebuild than Goodison, where United have not won since 2007 and where, with Wayne Rooney's state of marital strife equipping home fans with chants of "No woman, no Kai" (a reference to his child) a year ago, Ferguson rested the striker for his own protection. "You know what fans are like. He's a traitor as far as they're concerned," Ferguson admitted. Rooney has not scored against Everton since April 2007, though he is unlikely to be rested again. The wig jokes will be aired.
Ferguson reflected on the last time United conceded six goals, October 1986, and he remembered how the club went on and "won the league by 10 or 11 points". It was by seven points, actually, and that was a side containing Roy Keane, Eric Cantona and David Beckham.
Now the weight of expectation in midfield rests with Tom Cleverley, the 22-year-old with four Premier League starts under his belt, though Ferguson did not agree that expectations were too high. "He's got the potential," Ferguson added.