The number of people inside Old Trafford who would come to look down on David Moyes yesterday exceeded 75,000.

Only one cast a shadow over the Manchester United manager.

The figure of Sir Alex Ferguson has loomed over Moyes since he took charge at the start of the season and has often been in frame as cameras focused on the beleaguered Scot. A painful and complete surrender at home to Liverpool yesterday could be illustrated by snapshots of Fergie; sullen as his former side fall behind to two penalties, grim as a third goal is added by Luis Suarez and then turning his back to the pitch as Moyes offers a hand to a bitter rival.

Loading article content

Expectations that the club had of the new United manager this season were not set in stone. Instead they were cast in bronze, a statue of Ferguson which was erected outside Old Trafford now standing as a monument to a time when silverware was hunted greedily. United yesterday rattled a collection tin and seemed to ask their visitors if they might spare some small change.

This is meant as some gentle ribbing at the expense of an embattled Scottish manager but it has happened so often during this campaign that such jibes have likely left a bruise. Moyes was not to be salved by the arrival of Liverpool - a team which is 14 points ahead of United in the league table. They were 2-0 in front at Old Trafford within 46 minutes.

Both goals were leaden by the controversy which is often given to spot-kicks. They weighed United down horribly. The first was awarded after 34 minutes when Rafael was adjudged to have handled the ball in the penalty area and Steven Gerrard thumped in from the spot. The Liverpool captain converted his second of the afternoon after Joe Allen fell under the challenge of Phil Jones just a minute after the break.

Gerrard would miss a third penalty later in the half - a dubious decision which led to Nemanja Vidic being dismissed for bringing down Daniel Sturridge - but that was not a slight on the midfielder. Instead it illustrated just how good Liverpool had it before Suarez steered in a third goal for his side with six minutes to go.

Each time that referee Mark Clattenburg had pointed to the spot, a camera was aimed at Moyes. The former Everton manager had arrived with big shoes to fill but was made to look yesterday like a wean who had turned up wearing his dad's suit. Afterwards he sat in the bowels of the stadium as though waiting for his old man to come and take him home.

"We didn't play well. Liverpool deserved their victory," said the Scot. It is a familiar refrain for a manager who has overseen nine defeats in the league during his inaugural season in charge. Five have come at home.

He found injustice in the penalties awarded by Clattenburg but this offered insufficient cover from the battery of frustration from fans at full-time. "I think the job was always going to be hard," he added. "Yes, it is harder [than I thought it would be]. I would say so."

Such a comprehensive defeat will likely have stung more since Moyes last week sought to release the pressure on his players by identifying Liverpool as "favourites" to win in Manchester. His motivation was understandable but the result has left him to appear naive so that he was even scolded by Brendan Rodgers. "I would never say that at Liverpool, even if I was bottom of the league," said the Anfield side's manager.

That his side are in fact four points behind leaders Chelsea - and with a game in hand - speaks to a truth of this Liverpool side. They have been held together by a strength of character which stood up to constant speculation that Suarez was intent on leaving the club in the summer, with their title ambitions guarded by a group of players which few in the Premier League will want to mess with this season.

Home matches against first Manchester City and then Chelsea next month comprise a truer test of whether the Anfield side will have a square go at their title rivals. "We've shown we are genuine contenders," said Gerrard. "The rest of the teams around us have to believe we're going for it."

There is one team in Manchester in little need of convincing, just not the club Gerrard was referring to.