Although the Premier League champions will now realise that they have a real fight on their hands to retain the title and the defeat will come as a blow to confidence and morale, the panic button shouldn’t be pressed just yet.
David Moyes has had his doubters since his appointment as United boss, and the Scottish boss’ credentials to fill the Old Trafford hotseat will be further scrutinised after Sunday’s result.
However, Sir Alex Ferguson had to suffer heavy defeats to Manchester City, and other title rivals, during his 26-year reign at the club. Despite the legendary Scot’s track record of success and the mental toughness that his sides became renowned for, United also were subject to some heavy defeats in Ferguson’s time at the club.
In September 1989, newly promoted Manchester City beat United 5-1, with the mauling later coined as the Maine Road Massacre. Despite the heavy defeat, Ferguson used the result as a catalyst – his United side were not beaten against City again for 13 years. It was also the season that the Scot won his first trophy at the club.
In 2004 City beat United 4-1 unexpectedly, while Roberto Mancini took his team to Old Trafford in December 2011 and won 6-1.
These results, and yesterday’s latest defeat for Manchester United, show that on any given day a team can be humbled by another. It happened in Ferguson’s era and it has now happened in his successor’s. It will not be the last big defeat that the former Everton boss suffers in the Old Trafford hotseat, but it how his side bounce back that is all important.
In 1996-97, a United team laden with superstars was humiliated 5-0 at St James Park by a rampant Newcastle, with Philippe Albert scoring a delightful chip to round off the rout. A week later they were beaten 6-3 by Southampton. The following week a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Chelsea had United in crisis. Despite this, the Red Devils only lost two more games all season and ended up winning the Premier League title.
The defeat will give Manuel Pellegrini’s men confidence and momentum, while the blue side of the city has local bragging rights for the time being. However, with it being so early in the season the impact of one game or one defeat is not overly important.
Moyes is still finding his feet at Old Trafford, as Pellegrini is at City. Only three points separates the sides at the moment, with neither overly impressing in the fledgling days of the new campaign. Although the nature of the defeat will be a concern for United fans, the season is a marathon, not a sprint. It is how the champions react in upcoming games that will define their season, not a bad 90 minutes on opposition soil.