On a weekend which witnessed Arsenal climbing to the top of the Premier League, the more surprising news was that both Manchester clubs lost unexpectedly on the same day prompting opinion that the title race is the most competitive for many years with up to six teams considered as challengers.
However, the performance of Manchester United in losing 2-1 to West Brom was perhaps the more defining in that it completed their worst start to a season in 24 years and was their third defeat in six league matches. Already, it is reported that a twitter campaign among disgruntled fans, accustomed to instant success, is seeking the removal of new manager David Moyes.
It has not been a great start for the new boss but his predecessor Sir Alex Ferguson did not experience a particularly auspicious start to the 2012-13 campaign. Two defeats in six matches and a 3-2 win at Southampton secured by two late Robin Van Persie goals were not well received by the fans before a run of five successive league victories halted the apparent slide.
Ferguson rode that storm helped by his back-room staff, but for Moyes and his assistants, they are the new faces on the block tasked with inspiring some strong personalities in the Old Trafford changing room. The Scotsman proved his character of strength in handling the formidable Duncan Ferguson when appointed manager of Everton, but his recent assertion that his team may lack quality but not experience for the forthcoming Champions League campaign may not have been well received. A lack of summer transfer activity did not help the situation.
Eyes will be focussed on Moyes over the next few weeks as there will be on the endeavours of Manuel Pellegrini at neighbouring Manchester City. Excellent performances interspersed with defensive calamities have defined City’s displays to date in losing two matches already this season whereas they were undefeated until December in the last campaign.
With several imports still bedding into the competitive Premier League, Pellegrini may need some time for his team to blend into a consistent unit but patience is not one the great virtues of the Emirate owners as Roberto Mancini discovered. With the Spaniard also being a newcomer to the league, there may be further disappointments before City match the consistency of the previous two seasons.
The relative plight of the Manchester clubs in these early stages adds to the possibility of this Premier League season being one of the most exciting in years with Aston Villa and West Brom proving that the big teams can be beaten at any time.