David Moyes signalled that he had delivered the first “hairdryer” of his tenure as Manchester United manager, after admitting his players had lacked any intensity and conviction in the punishing 4-1 derby defeat yesterday which consigned them to their worst start to a Premier League season in almost a decade.
United’s vapid display leaves them with seven points from five matches – their worst opening since the 2004-05 season, in which they finished third, 18 points behind Chelsea in that club’s first season under Jose Mourinho. Moyes must now decide whether to field a more experienced side than he had anticipated against Liverpool in Wednesday’s Capital One Cup third-round tie, in an attempt to get the defeat out of United’s system.
“I just told the players... [in] the way I would have told players at any other club if I don’t think they’re doing it,” he said. “They’re good players. They’re good pros. They know when they’re bang at it and when they’re not. I’ve been here many times with Everton and don’t think I’ve suffered a defeat like this with Everton in my time.”
United were without Robin van Persie, who was suffering a mild groin strain, though they created nothing and Moyes admitted that he was concerned by the lack of goals from open play. United took 68 minutes to draw a save from City’s goalkeeper Joe Hart.
Moyes said he expected a reaction from his players. “I’ve made them aware of that,” he said. “If ever there was a group of players I’d expect that from it would be a group of Manchester United players. I think the way they have been brought up, the way they have been bred with the manager previously, they react.”
Wayne Rooney was the only United player who performed, leading Moyes to suggest that the player who has been at odds with the club was the game’s best performer. “He certainly didn’t deserve to play in the losing team, that’s for sure. I thought he was outstanding today. I remember back … it was probably as good a Wayne Rooney as I have seen.”
The Manchester City manager, Manuel Pellegrini, said that his side were superior and, if anything, played too quickly as the game wore on. “Normally you don’t expect to win 4-1 against Manchester United,” he said. “We played a little bit quickly in the second half, tried to play the game box-to-box and it was not the way to play it, but we had so many spaces and we are always trying to tell the players to play independently of the score. But I think this result will be useful for us.”