The chant from the visiting end was loud and mocking. "David Moyes is a football genius" they shouted in injury time, as their Manchester City team closed out a breakthrough of sorts. This was the club's first away win of the Premier League season and it was built upon a spirit of attacking adventure. David Silva was spellbinding and the scoreline flattered West Ham.
The thoughts of the City support, however, had turned to the plight of Manchester United who, earlier in the day, had dropped points in the final minute at home to Southampton. Moyes, the United manager, can feel pressure of a most excruciating nature as he attempts to uphold the success of his predecessor, Sir Alex Ferguson, and City, among others, can sense that the champions are vulnerable. They are determined to capitalise and to regain the title they won in 2012.
The view from the City dressing-room was balanced. Micah Richards, the defender, talked about how United still have the same players; they knew how to battle out of a corner and there was no doubt that they would "come strong". Yet there was also the suggestion that Ferguson's retirement had stripped United of their edge and in contests of high intensity and fine margins, any hint of weakness tends to be magnified.
"Let's not kid ourselves, Fergie is probably the best manager ever," Richards said. "He's probably like having a 12th man in your team. Moyes is a great manager. He didn't have that much money to spend at Everton and he kept them consistently playing well. It will be hard for them, losing Fergie, but, in time, I think Moyes will get it right."
Richards was asked about the difficulty that United face in halting the slide and regenerating momentum. "I think it does become a little bit hard but with a team like Man United, they have been in these positions before and they know how to get out of them," he said.
Manuel Pellegrini, the City manager, did not tell his players about Southampton's equaliser at Old Trafford before they kicked off at 5.30pm. "He said United had won, Arsenal had won and Chelsea had won so we had to win," Richards said. "Maybe it was a bit of reverse psychology.
"We'd watched Liverpool in the early kick-off [at Newcastle United] and they looked strong, and Arsenal just keep winning. People always say Arsenal will blow up but when a team gets that confidence going, it's hard to stop. This season, it's even harder because Chelsea look strong, Arsenal … and then there's Liverpool. So you've not just got an eye on United."
City did what they had to do in east London, and Pellegrini was rewarded for the positive decision to start Silva and Samir Nasri in roving roles off the flanks. Yaya Touré marauded from a deeper midfield role while the full-backs, Richards and Gaël Clichy, pressed high. Pellegrini had changed his entire back four, with only Vincent Kompany's omission being enforced by injury. Rotation will be fundamental this season but City have intimidating strength in depth. Their starting bench at Upton Park cost a combined £125m.
City created fistfuls of openings and it was curious that they failed to kill off West Ham until Silva's breakaway goal. The home team, again set up without a striker, gave their all and posed problems. Ricardo Vaz Tê fashioned their lifeline with an athletic piece of overhead improvisation – he has four goals in four starts in all competitions this season – but City were comfortable. It was West Ham's third consecutive home defeat in the league.
Sergio Agüero was lethal and the only surprise was that he did not depart with the match ball, but Silva was the show-stopper. West Ham could have doubled their heavy numbers in midfield and not got close to him. He glided about, as though on a higher plane, but he stung the Hammers with his incisiveness.
"We call him Merlin," Richards said. "He's like a little wizard, isn't he? It was ridiculous watching him. He is probably the best player I have played with. He just makes it look easy, the way he goes past people. In training, I don't give him any room, I just smash him. We have an agreement: 'You don't come near me, I won't hurt you.' It's the only way."
West Ham's Mark Noble joined the appreciation. "At the minute he is probably better than [Arsenal's] Mesut Özil," Noble said. "He has that experience and he's won things with Spain. He is one of the best players on the pitch every time."
Man of the match David Silva (Manchester City)