Manchester United 1 West Bromwich Albion 2 match report: David Moyes under pressure as Albion show magic is gone

Manager bemoans another poor performance as his United side suffers second successive defeat

Old Trafford

When Sir Alex Ferguson left Old Trafford so, too, did the fear. There would have been a time when a side like West Bromwich Albion would not have dared come to Manchester and taken on United as equals.

Most clubs would approach Old Trafford’s giddying stands with the trepidation of a hobbit catching his first sight of the towers of Mordor. When United wrested the title back from Chelsea in 2011, West Bromwich were the only side to take so much as a point here and that when Edwin van der Sar inexplicably dropped the ball at Somen Tchoyi’s feet.

They took a point then and now they merited more. At 1-1 most sides might have stuck, taken a draw, withdrawn behind their own halfway line and hoped to ride out the inevitable storm. Now, West Bromwich passed with an easy fluidity and, with a shot from the edge of the area from Saido Berahino, they got what they deserved.

It was not the only goal that Berahino, a lovely talent whose family fled a civil war in Burundi to find sanctuary in Birmingham, might have scored.  For Manchester United and David Moyes this was worse, far worse, than defeat in the derby last Sunday.

This is, statistically, Manchester United’s worst start to a season since 1989, the last year when it seemed likely that Ferguson might be sacked. Losing to West Bromwich has cost in no particular order Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto di Matteo, Chris Hughton and Paolo di Canio their jobs. Towards the end their supporters, who had not won at this ground since the days of Big Ron and the Three Degrees, were chanting: “We’re West Bromwich Albion, we’ll sack who we want”.

It would take a fevered leap of imagination to picture Moyes losing his job but the stress was evident as he patrolled his touchline, pointing, encouraging and, when what would have been an equaliser from Marouane Fellaini was correctly ruled offside, seizing up with frustration.

He had made seven changes from the side that had been demolished at Eastlands and the casualties included Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic, whom he described on Friday as “the best centre-half I have worked with.”

The absences would have had something to do with Manchester United’s long journey to the coalfields of Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League. Vidic’s chances of starting in the Donbass Arena on Wednesday night increased considerably with this performance.

It left Wayne Rooney as captain, which for so many reasons was not something that could have been predicted in the summer. Despite the fact that he once sued the forward for libel, Rooney is Moyes’ kind of player and with Robin van Persie on the bench through injury, he remained Manchester United’s lone threat. It was his dipping free-kick arriving through a flurry of red shirts that deceived Boaz Myhill for the equaliser and provided United with the kind of opportunity they once exploited greedily and instinctively.

It was only in the closing moments when a far from fit Van Persie had been thrown on that they carried a threat. Often Manchester United appeared to be playing from memory and a very faded one at that.

“It was a poor result and a poor performance,” said Moyes, whose decision to substitute Shinji Kagawa at half-time was a further humiliation to a footballer who because of his iconic status in Japan is under more pressure than anyone else in the home dressing room. Moyes complained that Manchester United “do not seem to be able to open teams up.” That is a role Kagawa performed regularly at Dortmund. 

For his opposite number, Steve Clarke, this was a beautifully engineered victory. Old Trafford had been the scene of his first taste of management when taking over as Newcastle’s caretaker after the ruinous reign of Ruud Gullit. Manchester United had won 5-1 with the stadium chanting: “Let’s all laugh at Shearer”. Now, they were silenced.

“We did everything almost perfectly. We were about more than defending doggedly and trying to nick a point,” said Clarke, who had lost Scott Sinclair after 13 minutes and seen his captain, Jonas Olsson have his head bandaged early on. Later, that bandaged head would send the ball against David De Gea’s crossbar.

The last time these sides had met was a 5-5 draw – a schoolboy scoreline in a match that featured schoolboy tactics in what was Ferguson’s final match as manager of Manchester United.

The goal that opened this game up was a schoolboy goal of sorts; the kind you would cherish into middle age. Morgan Amalfitano, brought in on loan from Marseilles, had scored against Sunderland last week but this was on another plane. He began on the right wing, cut inside, placed the ball through Rio Ferdinand’s legs and kept on running. De Gea spread himself and the Frenchman simply chipped the ball over him without a hint of fear in his body.

Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea, Jones, Ferdinand, Evans, Buttner; Carrick, Anderson (Fellaini, 67); Nani, Rooney, Kagawa (Januzaj, h-t); Hernandez (Van Persie, 58).

West Bromwich Albion (4-2-3-1): Myhill; Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Mulumbu, Yacob; Amalfitano, Sessegnon (Rosenberg, 90), Sinclair (Berahino, 13); Anichebe (Lugano, 88).

Referee: Michael Oliver

Man of the match: Morgan Amalfitano (West Bromwich)

Match rating: 7/10

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn