Manchester United suffered a second-straight Premier League defeat as West Brom came to Old Trafford and inflicted a deserved 2-1 defeat on the title holders. While David Moyes will have breathed a sigh of relief after following up the heavy Manchester derby defeat with a 1-0 win over Liverpool in the Capital One Cup in midweek, the pressure now firmly returns to the new man in the United hot seat.
But while the focus will be on Moyes and United, West Brom warrant plenty of credit for a fine performance that earned them a first win over their illustrious opponents since before Sir Alex Ferguson took the reins at Old Trafford.
It was Burundi-born England Under-21 international Saido Berahino who will go down in folklore after scoring a goal with the quality to match its significance midway through the second half. That followed a Wayne Rooney free-kick, which had equalized a memorable solo effort from Morgan Alamfitano earlier in the second half.
While United had plenty of the play, they again looked lackluster going forward for the most part. On top of that, the defensive failings that have been hinted at in the early weeks of the season were in full evidence, with West Brom looking dangerous almost every time they went forward and creating the better chances throughout.
Nani provided some encouraging moments early on, but in truth West Brom goalkeeper Boaz Myhill had very little to do in the opening 45 minutes. The only two chances of a drab half fell the visitors way. Berahino, who replaced the injured Scott Sinclair after just 13 minutes, quickly was having a major role on proceedings. Indeed, the England sprightly forward probably should have put his side in front, but failed to get enough on a header that drifted wide of the post.
Right at the end of the period another opportunity came West Brom’s way. This time, though, Stephane Sessegnon smashed a shot high, wide and ugly from an admittedly tricky angle after a corner fell his way.
Moyes responded by sending Adnan Januzaj on at half time and brining Kagawa’s first Premier League start of the season to a premature end. But, in a more open second half, it was at the other end of the pitch where United’s major problems lay, however.
There was a warning sign for United when Sessegnon did well to create a shooting opportunity, before shifting the responsibility onto Berahino whose tame effort was blocked by David de Gea at the near post. Minutes later, United would not escape.
Amalfitano, who, despite missing a crucial penalty as West Brom lost to Arsenal in the League Cup, has made a good impression since his loan arrival from Marseille, further increased his standing with his new club’s fans. The France international was allowed to travel all the way from half-way and, with Sessegnon taking Jonny Evans wide, he found himself one-on-one with Rio Ferdinand. That obstacle was all too easily bypassed as Amalfitano poked it through the legs of the creaking veteran defender and then skillfully made De Gea commit before dinking it over the keeper’s head.
At the first time of asking there was a positive response from United. Just three minutes after going behind Rooney struck an in-swinging free-kick from the left that caught out Myhill in just evading the head of Javier Hernandez before finding the far corner of the net.
United, though, were incapable of stemming the tide at the other end. West Brom’s three danger men going forward were all involved with Sessegnon finding Amalfitano on the edge of the box, who delightfully laid the ball back into Berahino’s path. And, as with the first goal, space was found between Ferdinand’s legs, this time to allow Berahino’s sweetly struck effort to find the bottom corner of the net.
It was a situation United have extricated themselves from so many times down the years and particularly in Ferguson’s final season in charge. But, despite the introduction of Robin van Persie, there were no such last-gasp heroics here under Moyes. And the former Everton boss now faces up to leading United to their worst start to the season in 24 years.