LONDON - The English Premier League is in uncharted territory. Never before has Manchester United started a season so badly. Having swept to its 13th title in the league's 21 years barely five months ago, United is languishing in 12th place six games into the new campaign. The next game on Saturday, though, sees new manager David Moyes take United to Sunderland, which is stuck to the bottom of the standings on just one point. Here are five things to know about this weekend's matches:
BACKING FOR MOYES: United is enduring its worst start since 1989, three years before the start of the Premier League and three years into Alex Ferguson's reign.
Having hand-picked David Moyes to succeed him after more than 26 years as United manager, Ferguson is hardly going to criticize his fellow Scot. By offering public backing though in his new role as a United director, Ferguson has sought to dispel any suggestions of a crisis at Old Trafford.
"Absolutely, 100 per cent (United is backing Moyes) and all the club will be," Ferguson told U.S. broadcaster PBS in his first full post-retirement interview. "That's the great thing about the club, they will support the manager and he will be fine, he will be good."
Good for United is at least finishing in the top three to guarantee Champions League qualification, according to the club's financial forecasts. But three of the opening six league matches have been lost, with a home collapse to West Bromwich Albion last weekend. With Wayne Rooney an injury doubt, United is facing a Sunderland side on Saturday that has lost five out of six league matches and is still in the temporary command of Kevin Ball after Paolo Di Canio's firing.
TOFFEES YET TO COME UNSTUCK: How about Moyes' former club, the one he left in May in search of a first major trophy? Everton is five points above United in fourth place and the league's last remaining unbeaten team heading into Saturday's match at Manchester City. "To speak about perceptions and achievements is early because we are only six games into the season," manager Roberto Martinez said. "That would be foolish. We need to maintain the standards."
CITY SLACKERS: City had made a strong start to the season but lost to Aston Villa last weekend and was then humbled by Bayern Munich in a 3-1 Champions League defeat. "Without being cocky, we are used to playing nice football but we got taught a lesson," City defender Micah Richards said. "It is disappointing to be on the receiving end."
In the firing line is Joe Hart whose error-prone displays recently in the City goal are a growing cause for concern. "Of course I am worried about the mistakes," manager Manuel Pellegrini said.
ARSENAL'S ADVANCE: This is the time of year when Arsenal is engulfed in gloom. Not this season, with the Gunners on a 10-match winning run in all competitions to sit top of the Premier League and their Champions League group. They hold a two-point lead domestically over Liverpool heading into Sunday's game at West Brom, with playmaker Mesut Ozil in sparkling form since joining a month ago from Real Madrid. "His vision is enormous and with him we are more dangerous and can compete at the higher levels," said fellow German, defender Per Mertesacke. "We try to make it comfortable for him to adapt as quickly as possible and it fits."
CROWD FEARS: Last season's match between Tottenham and West Ham at White Hart Lane was marred by anti-Semitic abuse by Hammers fans. Ahead of the London derby, police have issued a warning they will be seeking to stamp out racism at the fixture. The Metropolitan Police even plan to arrest Tottenham fans who use "Yid" in their chants affectionately to deflect anti-Semitic abuse.
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