at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Manchester - Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney endured “one of his worst days in football” after bitter rivals Liverpool inflicted a humiliating 3-0 defeat on his team at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Sunday.
Rooney summed up the mood of the champions after they conceded three penalties and captain Nemanja Vidic was sent off to gift a dominant Liverpool side a comfortable victory which effectively end United's hopes of qualifying for next season's Champions League.
“It's a nightmare. It's one of the worst days I've ever had in football,” the England striker told MUTV.
“It's hard to take. You have to give Liverpool credit - they played well - but it's difficult to take. Nobody wants to lose, especially in this way, in your own stadium. It's not nice.”
Two Steven Gerrard penalties and a Luis Suarez goal were the source of Rooney's misery but in truth Liverpool could have scored a few more, with Gerrard missing a third penalty and Sturridge being denied another despite strong claims after a tackle from Michael Carrick.
“To go behind by one penalty was hard to take,” Rooney said. “We had a game plan for the second half, which went out the window when they got the second penalty so early on.
“Then, to concede a third penalty, even though they missed, was a big blow to us. We were then chasing the game with 10 men. That made it difficult for us and they kept the ball well to see the game out.
“I haven't seen the penalties back again but from where I was standing on the pitch I don't think we can argue with them.”
Manchester United manager David Moyes also conceded that he was finding his job harder than he could have ever envisaged after the chastening home defeat.
The loss on Sunday was United's ninth of the Premier League campaign - five of which have come at home - and carried echoes of the 4-1 humiliation at Manchester City in September that foreshadowed the club's current struggles.
With United 12 points below the Champions League places, having played two more games than fourth-placed City, their hopes of reserving a berth in Europe's premier club competition via the league have been all but dashed.
They also trail Greek champions Olympiakos 2-0 ahead of the second leg of their Champions League last 16 tie on Wednesday, making their chances of qualifying by winning the tournament appear almost equally remote.
It is only 10 months since Alex Ferguson stepped down as manager after overseeing the club's 20th league title triumph, and Moyes admits that the pace of United's decline has taken him by surprise.
“The job was always going to be hard,” he said. “Is it harder than I thought it would be? Yeah, I would say so.”
United have beaten only one of the teams currently in the Premier League's top nine - Arsenal, in November - but despite the damning statistical evidence, Moyes played down suggestions of a malaise.
“That tells you we're not doing as well as we should be,” he said.
“We have to play better and make ourselves harder to beat, harder to play against, and we are also going to have to make sure we are creating and taking more opportunities.”
He insisted that his players remain “confident” and “hard-working” and said that they would approach the game against Olympiakos at Old Trafford fully believing in their chances of reaching the quarter-finals.
“I think everyone wants to win, no matter what game you play, and give the supporters something to shout about,” he said.
Moyes took umbrage with some of referee Mark Clattenburg's decisions and Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers conceded that Liverpool's third penalty, awarded for a foul on Daniel Sturridge by Nemanja Vidic, was “harsh”.
Vidic was shown a second yellow card and angrily accused Sturridge of taking a dive, but, despite Gerrard's subsequent miss, there was no disguising the extent of Liverpool's superiority.
They are now four points behind leaders Chelsea with a game in hand, but Rodgers remains reluctant to talk up his side's title chances.
Asked if he had forbidden talk of the title, he told journalists: “I've not banned it. We have better things to talk about.
“It is about improving and getting better. I don't lose sleep over it. We are up there on merit, so of course we have an opportunity - I didn't say no chance. If you think we have a chance, then write it.”
Rodgers also expressed bewilderment at Moyes's pre-match admission that Liverpool were probably the favourites to win the game.
“I was probably surprised when I heard we were supposedly coming to Old Trafford here as favourites,” said the Northern Irishman.
“I would never say that at Liverpool, even if I was bottom of the league.”
Moyes responded: “I just thought Liverpool were above us in the league and playing well and I thought any average person would have said the same thing.” - Reuters, Sapa-AFP