x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Worrying times for Moyes as Manchester United lose again

A 2-1 loss at home to West Bromwich Albion makes this Manchester United's worst start to a season since 1989.

Saido Berahino, second right, celebrates what was the winning goal against Manchester United with his West Brom teammates. Alex Livesey / Getty images
Saido Berahino, second right, celebrates what was the winning goal against Manchester United with his West Brom teammates. Alex Livesey / Getty images
Manchester United 1
Rooney 57'
West Bromwich Albion
Amalfitano 54', Berahino 65'
Man of the match
Victor Anichebe (West Brom)
MANCHESTER // "We'll sack who we want," chimed the 1,500 West Bromwich Albion fans at Old Trafford, "Sacked in the morning."
It was audible to manager David Moyes, standing agitated as Manchester United slipped to a shock 2-1 defeat.
Paolo Di Canio, Chris Houghton, Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo all have been dismissed immediately after facing West Brom, yet Moyes will not lose his job.
United, who have not finished out of the top three in England's top flight since 1991, are 12th this morning. After six games, the reigning champions - who won the title by 11 points last season - have not scored a league goal from open play since the opening-day win at Swansea City.
It is United's worst start since 1989. But the club was very different then. Average home crowds were half their current level, expectations, too. United fans have long since revised their views, but a significant number wanted Sir Alex Ferguson gone, after, according to one infamous banner "three years of excuses".
Moyes faces different pressures.
The Scot is just a few months into a six-year contract; he was appointed because United want to continue the managerial longevity they had under Ferguson.
A noble sentiment, yet United fans are not unreasonable in expecting their team to beat West Brom at home in the first league fixture after their comprehensive 4-1 defeat in the Manchester derby.
Moyes had strong words for that hammering in his pre-match programme notes, saying he was "embarrassed" and "I had not seen that level of performance from our players in any of the games".
Perhaps with the Uefa Champions League match in Donetsk on Wednesday in mind, Moyes made seven changes to the side that lost at Etihad Stadium, giving starts to Phil Jones, Jonny Evans, Nani, Shinji Kagawa, Anderson, Alexander Buttner and Javier Hernandez.
Having conceded 11 goals in their last six league matches, one more than in their previous 18 games, the pressure was on United's defence to tighten up.
They did not.
Moyes had asked for patience from fans, adding that he hoped to see his team provide a committed and driven display.
They did not.
United had more possession, they hit the crossbar with an Anderson header, but the champions were again anaemic and lacking the killer touch.
Nani, was skilled on the right, but hesitant with his final ball. Kagawa, another creative force, was substituted at the break. Moyes asked for patience and he got it. He even had a few renditions of "David Moyes' red 'n' white army" in the Mancunian sun. But that was in anticipation of what was to come - United goals.
They did not come.
West Brom took the lead in the 54th minute, the excellent Morgan Amalfitano enjoying freedom seldom gifted to visiting players as he ran from near his own half to the United area, before striking a shot past David De Gea.
The goal shocked United into a reaction. West Brom were ahead for three minutes. As substitute Robin van Persie prepared to come on, Wayne Rooney scored from another free kick, but United did not surge on.
West Brom did. They had chances too: 12 shots to United's 14, eight corners to five and came closest to re-taking the lead when Jonas Olsen headed a corner downward and onto the bar.
Anderson, profligate in possession, was replaced by Marouane Fellaini, but not before Saido Berahino had deservedly put West Brom back in front on 66 minutes. The previously supportive home fans began to groan. They are not used to this, they are used to fortress Old Trafford.
It was no fortress.
"We came here to try and play," said victorious manager Steve Clark. "We were tremendous from start to finish and did almost everything perfectly. We looked a threat every time we went forward. We created more chances and we deserved to win."
"Poor result, poor performance," offered Moyes. "We never got going. We had a lot of the ball in the first half but didn't finish chances. They always looked a threat in the first half and even more in the second."
Asked if he is concerned about United's start, Moyes said: "I was after today, but there's a lot of games to go. We're not quite opening teams up the way we would like."
sports@thenational.ae