David Moyes’ West Ham reign began with a 2-0 Premier League defeat by upwardly mobile Watford at Vicarage Road.
The Scot’s hopes of a winning start in his 500th game as a manager were dashed by goals in either half from Will Hughes and Richarlison that left his new club in the bottom three and the size of the task facing him even clearer.
For the hosts, it was another energetic and clinical performance that highlighted why coach Marco Silva is coveted by Everton.
Moyes, appointed as Slaven Bilic’s successor on 7 November, can feel aggrieved at an unpunished handball in the build-up to Richarlison’s strike, and lost £25m striker Marko Arnautovic with a suspected broken thumb in the second half.
But he will have to build on an improved second-half spell by the Hammers, who were spectacularly denied by Watford keeper Heurelho Gomes.
It was an impressive return to winning ways for the Hornets, whose early-season momentum had stalled with defeats in their previous three games, and the victory moves them up a place to eighth in the table.
Hughes, the 22-year-old £8m summer signing from Derby County, scored with his first attempt on goal in the top flight, latching on to Andre Gray’s scuffed effort and smashing it past Joe Hart.
The England goalkeeper was also beaten by Richarlison, who was a constant threat, but did well to stop Adrian Mariappa’s header to deny Watford a third after an hour.
What next for Silva?
Watford fans, not to mention Evertonians, will be keen to see whether Portuguese Silva pushes for a move to Goodison Park.
The money on offer from the Toffees’ billionaire owner Farhad Moshiri may turn his head, but it would not be an easy decision to walk out on this promising squad, balanced with youth and experience and fuelled by shrewd recruitment.
For Watford supporters concerned at the prospect, there is some consolation: the scouting team that identified Richarlison from Fluminense in Brazil and decided to take a chance on Hughes, long-linked with a move to the top flight, will remain regardless of who sits in the dugout.
Both players caught the eye against West Ham, who invested on more tested Premier League talent in Hart, Pablo Zabaleta and Arnautovic in the summer but are nine places below Watford in the table.
Under former Italy international Andrea Carnevale, the Hornets have one of club football’s most envied scouting units, and owner Gino Pozzo has an equally sharp eye for managerial appointments.
Losing Silva after only 13 games in charge would hurt, but it should not derail one of the league’s most impressively run clubs competing with those with far bigger budgets.