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 At 1-1 most sides might have stuck, taken a draw, withdrawn behind their own halfway line and hoped to ride out the inevitable storm.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

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
filmSony could have made a cult classic
Life and Style
fashionThe essential guide to all the designer Christmas sale dates
News
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
News
people

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
Sport
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
News
i100
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

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas