Moyes gets the desired response

West Brom 0 Manchester United 3

Moyes gets the desired response

Now, however, the real challenges begin for the Manchester United manager.

Phil Jones, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck goals eased the pressure on Moyes as United claimed a handsome win which propelled them to sixth in the Premier League.

It was exactly the response Moyes had sought in what was their first game since their 2-0 defeat by Olympiakos in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League clash a fortnight ago.

Yet defeating a West Brom side who have won just one of their previous 18 Premier League matches only carries with it so much credit.

“Saturday was more to recover from the poor performance against Olympiakos,” Moyes said. “I don’t think any of us saw it coming. Hopefully it was just a blip. This was more like it.”

The real acid test comes over a nine-day period which begins on Sunday with Liverpool’s visit to Old Trafford. While the power shift towards the blue half of Manchester this term has not been altogether surprising, few would have predicted United to also be eating the dust of their other great rivals, now second, whose improvement has been as marked as the reigning champions’ decline.

Defeat would stretch the gap between the sides to 14 points and Moyes’ popularity will plummet to a fresh nadir.

Then comes that return leg against Olympiakos. A match which offers them the opportunity to inject some life back into what many have already written off as an irrevocably catastrophic campaign.

“There had to be a reaction from Olympiakos,” midfielder Michael Carrick admitted.

“It wasn’t a good result and then the roof sort of caved in. Everyone came out of the woodwork and criticised us but that’s something you have got to deal with. We had a long time to ponder it.

“Even though lads went off around the world on internationals, it still doesn’t get out of your system.

“It’s an important time of the season. It’s that time when you have to perform and get results.

“Liverpool is a big game regardless. Wherever both teams are in the league it’s a big game.”

Phil Jones set the ball rolling with a bullet header from Robin van Persie’s free-kick after 34 minutes. However, in a week in which Moyes has been forced to field questions over the striker’s contentment, the Holland international fuelled further question marks over his state of mind. Having just been cautioned for a tackle from behind on Morgan Amalfitano, he committed a second reckless lunge, this time on Steven Reid, which to Moyes’ relief went unpunished.

He was swiftly substituted, yet reacted sulkily, trudging off.

He was not missed. Rafael’s 65th-minute delivery was headed home by the unmarked Rooney at the back post, then Rooney turned provider with seven minutes left when he fed Welbeck, who clinically dispatched a shot beyond the advancing Ben Foster into the right corner.

The defeat left West Brom head coach Pepe Mel’s position under growing scrutiny, with the Spaniard still without a victory in his seven matches in charge.

Foster said: “It’s gone crazy. It seems now that every new manager that comes in — unless they start winning straight away and picking up points — then they’re going to be in trouble. It’s ridiculous.”

They sit perilously placed above the bottom three with goal difference alone keeping them out of the relegation zone.

What now looks a season-defining quartet of fixtures against Swansea, Hull, Cardiff and Norwich now await.

“The games coming up are big games,” the goalkeeper added.

WEST BROM (4-2-3-1): Foster 5; Reid 5 (Sessegnon 60, 5), McAuley 5, Olsson 5, Ridgewell 5; Yacob 6 (Morrison 40, 5), Mulumbu 5, Amalfitano 5, Gera 5, Brunt 7 (Berahino 66, 5), Anichebe 7.

MAN UTD (4-2-3-1): De Gea 6; Da Silva 7 (Vidic 87), Smalling 6, Jones 7, Evra 6; Carrick 6, Fellaini 7; Mata 8, Rooney 7, Januzaj 7 (Kagawa 76); Van Persie 6 (Welbeck 63, 7).

Referee: Jon Moss (W Yorkshire).

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