Man U's worst start to a league campaign since 1989

MANCHESTER UNITED      1
(Wayne Rooney 57)

WEST BROM                     2
(Saido Berahino 67, Morgan Amalfitano 54)

David Moyes claimed that much of the criticism aimed at him this season had been unwarranted.

He need not have worried. Those coming his way over the next few days will certainly be justified. A loss to West Bromwich Albion at home?

No one could have seen that coming. The 2-1 loss to WBA on Sep 28 will surely set off the alarm bells at Old Trafford now.

This is their worst start to a league campaign since 1989.

Seven points from their first six games is nowhere near championship form, although that will be the least of Moyes' concerns at the moment.

He must had been hoping that the midweek League Cup win over Liverpool would be the spark that turns the tide.

Those who impressed in that match, the likes of Jonny Evans, Alexander Buttner, Luis Nani, Shinji Kagawa and Javier Hernandez, kept their places.

But, so tame and flat was the team's performance against WBA that the Red Devils seemed to have been swallowed by the occasion.

This was supposed to be the start of a kind run of fixtures which would give them an excellent chance of clawing back up the league table.

Now, following this shock loss, Sunderland, Southampton, Stoke and Fulham suddenly look more imposing than before.

The warning signs already surfaced in the first half, when United struggled to carve out good scoring chances against the Baggies, despite having the lion's share of possession.

It was Steve Clarke's men who almost drew first blood, when the impressive Stephane Sessegnon sliced United's defence apart like hot knife through butter and advanced to the byeline.

But Michael Carrick blocked the dangerous cross in the nick of time.

United's only real threat was from the right, where Nani was their sole inspirational figure.

Twice, he produced inviting crosses which almost found a United boot in the WBA six-yard box, but that was as close as United came to scoring before the break.

The match suddenly came to life in the second period.

Within nine minutes, the visitors were in front.

Morgan Amalfitano's audacious opening goal reminded one of the very best United could muster during the Sir Alex Ferguson years.

That no one in a red shirt could check his run from the halfway line to the penalty box was a mark of his sangfroid and United's defensive mediocrity.

Then he taunted de Gea into making the first move, before clipping the ball beyond his flailing arms.

In contrast, Wayne Rooney's set-piece cross, which eluded everyone as it bounced into the net, was the sort of goal expected of plucky, but lucky underdogs.

Except that United, of course, were the overwhelming favourites in this encounter.

So, when Saido Berahino buried the winner from the edge of the penalty box in the 67th minute, it seemed almost inevitable.

A sense of gloom and doom descended on Old Trafford at the final whistle, and for good reason too.

The fortress had crumbled. And now there is no Fergie in the dugout to turn to.

garylim@sph.com.sg


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