Robin van Persie suffered a losing start to his Manchester United career as Marouane Fellaini gave Everton a surprise 1-0 win at Goodison Park on Monday.
Van Persie, who joined United from Arsenal for £24 million last week, was forced to watch the opening 68 minutes from the substitutes bench before coming on 11 minutes after Fellaini's goal.
But the Dutch forward was unable to inspire a United comeback and Everton deservedly chalked up a fine win in their first match of the Premier League season.
Belgium international Fellaini had already been denied by the woodwork before heading the winner, while Everton midfielder Leon Osman hit the crossbar as David Moyes' side dominated a toothless United from start to finish.
Van Persie's decision to snub champions Manchester City in favour of a move to United has renewed optimism at Old Trafford that they can wrestle the title back from their local rivals this season.
But Ferguson's team will need to improve on this erratic display if they are to win a 20th English league crown.
Although Van Persie started his United career on the bench due to a lack of match sharpness, there was one new face in United's line-up in the shape of Japan midfielder Shinji Kagawa, the £12 million signing from Borussia Dortmund.
Kagawa was impressive at time, but it was Nani who went closest to opening the scoring for the visitors, the Portuguese flashing a long-range effort narrowly wide in the 23rd minute, before Wayne Rooney was denied by Tim Howard's outstretched hand from a free-kick six minutes later.
However this was anything but one-way traffic.
Everton, partly responsible for United's title downfall last season after coming from 4-2 down to draw 4-4 at Old Trafford in April, caused Ferguson's make-shift defence all kinds of problems before half-time.
With Rio Ferdinand out with a groin injury, Michael Carrick stood in at centre-back alongside the returning Nemanja Vidic, back in the team after a long-term cruciate knee ligament injury.
But the ease in which Fellaini glided past the England international before striking the woodwork in the 14th minute made uncomfortable viewing for Ferguson.
In addition, United keeper David de Gea made four excellent stops to deny Steven Pienaar twice before half-time, while Leon Osman and Leighton Baines also suffered frustration at the hands of the Spanish keeper.
De Gea's stop from Osman's powerful shot-on-the-turn was the pick of the saves.
The second half started the way the first period ended -- with United under the cosh and looking rattled at the back.
Osman was denied by the underside of the bar after a sweeping 49th minute move.
But the outstanding Fellaini broke the deadlock in the 57th minute after rising above Carrick to meet Darron Gibson's corner and plant a powerful header beyond De Gea.
That sparked movement on the United bench and the moment all United fans had been waiting for -- van Persie's debut -- finally arrived in the 68th minute after Tom Cleverley had been denied an equaliser by Phil Jagielka's goalline clearance.
Van Persie showed flashes of what he is capable of, yet he was unable to inspire his team-mates as United lost their first game of the season for the first time since Eidur Gudjohnsen's goal secured Chelsea a 1-0 win in 2004.