MANCHESTER // David Moyes, the Manchester United manager, spoke of how he felt encouraged after seeing his side bounce back from their derby drubbing by Manchester City to knock Liverpool out of the League Cup.
Sunday’s abject 4-1 defeat at the Etihad Stadium left United five points off the pace in the Premier League, but they showed signs of life in a 1-0 win over Liverpool, their age-old rivals, at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
“What was important was that the whole club showed that we were hurt by the game on Sunday,” said Moyes, after a victory that set up a fourth-round tie with Norwich City.
“We didn’t perform to our levels. And they’ve gone out and the players have done a great job to get us a big result, so I’m really pleased with them.
“We know we have to improve. I’m getting to know them. They’re a really good team; they won the Premiership last year. But we need to make sure that we’re looking to improve as well.”
Javier Hernandez scored the game’s only goal, stealing away from Jose Enrique to convert a Wayne Rooney corner from close range in the 46th minute of an engaging and open-ended cup tie.
Paradoxically, despite United having made their worst start to a league campaign in nine years, the win over Liverpool meant that Moyes has made the best start as a United manager since the great Matt Busby in 1946.
He poured scorn on the statistic, but admitted he was eager to see more positive headlines about the early days of his United tenure.
“Somebody told me that before the game. That’s the way it is,” said the Scot, who also revealed that Tom Cleverley had sustained an unspecified injury in training.
“Everybody at the moment seems to be picking a stat out – you know, I’ve not won here or I’ve done this or I’ve not done that. Obviously that’s one of the good ones, because I’ve not had that many good ones.”
Hernandez’s goal eclipsed the return of Luis Suarez, the Liverpool striker, who was making his comeback after serving a 10-game suspension for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic in a league match in April.
The Uruguayan played for the full 90 minutes and almost claimed an equaliser with 18 minutes to play, only for his free-kick to flick off the United wall and crash against the crossbar.
“Considering he’s been out for such a long time, he ran himself into the ground and you could see he was always a threat,” said Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager.
“He put defenders on the back foot, he had a couple of wee twists and turns. And obviously as he goes on he’ll get a wee bit sharper, but overall he can be really pleased and I was really happy for him.”
Rodgers was also heartened by the warm reaction that Suarez received from the club’s travelling fans, despite his attempts to engineer a move away from Anfield during the close season.
“You heard them at the beginning. The support that they have given him is unheralded, really,” he told reporters.
“They were brilliant towards him and he’s given them everything. He had a clap to the crowd before the match started, so he recognises everything they’ve given him.
“Now he’s just got to get his head down and give them that great talent that he has.”
Liverpool conceded top spot in the Premier League after losing at home to Southampton on Saturday, but with no other distractions on their agenda, Rodgers has promised an all-out assault on the league.
“Now we can only concentrate on the league through to Christmas, so we have to make sure that we stay up in that top six in the league, keep fighting, and hopefully we can reinforce again in January,” he said.