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 today 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. There has been none since the opening weekend at Swansea City. The United manager may be torn over whether to deploy Van Persie against Liverpool.
The idea of doing so against any opposition in the early stages of the competition would have been inconceivable in recent years and Javier Hernandez will be hungry to start having been granted only three substitutes' appearances this season. But Moyes, who has been reluctant to gamble and rotate, will want to stave off a sense of crisis and to break his duck in pursuit of silverware as a manager. Liverpool have already defeated United in the Premier League this season.
United took 68 minutes to draw a save from City's goalkeeper Joe Hart in the defeat which leaves them eighth in the early running, five points behind Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, who beat Stoke City and Cardiff City respectively. Moyes said he now 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. That's what they do, and that's what we'll do here. We'll make sure we react. Every manager has bad results. I'm no different.''
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.''
Moyes reiterated his point that the fixture schedule which gave United such a difficult start had worked against him. "Maybe if those games are later in the season and not right at the start of it I might have a better understanding of the whole of it all the players, the situation at the club,'' he said. "I think any manager who had been given that run of fixtures when they took over at this club would have found it difficult.''
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. "But after winning the most important thing was how we played. It was very important for the team. Normally derbies are more even but today we had a very good day and that allowed us to have superiority.
"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.''
- The Independent