Manager David Moyes insists Manchester United will turn around their depressing start to his tenure.
Installed as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor amid much fanfare this summer, Moyes has presided over a troubled transition so far. Hammered by Manchester City, then stunned on home soil by West Brom at the weekend, the defending Premier League champions have slithered into the bottom half of the table, experiencing their worst start to a campaign since 1989.
Yet Moyes remains defiant.
In the knowledge that senior figures at United, not least Sir Bobby Charlton and Ferguson, who recommended his appointment, will ensure he gets the time needed to implement his plans, Moyes spoke with an air of certainty ahead of this evening’s tricky Champions League encounter with Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine.
“I have been in situations very similar to this at my old clubs Everton and also at Preston,” he said. “You get on and you do the right things. I haven’t changed what I have done. I will continue to do that.
“The results will come. I have no doubt about that.”
Moyes was not in particularly expansive mood.
From the same press conference desk where Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin offered to take a journalist outside for a “man-to-man chat” during Euro 2012, he could not be said to be friendly either.
When reminded of his apparent weekend claim that United lack the world-class players needed to compete in this most elite of competitions, in which United reached the final as recently as 2011, Moyes attempted to clarify his position.
“I said to win the Champions League you need to have a certain amount of world-class players,” he said. “That is something which we will try to do. Of course we will try to win the Champions League. It is part of the job at Manchester United and I will do everything possible to try to make that happen.”
These are evidently not easy times at Old Trafford, though, even if Michael Carrick has been around long enough to realise situations can be turned around very quickly.
“We are still confident,” said the England midfielder. “Whether we win or lose the last game we always deal with it and move on. We have had a good start in this competition. That is the way we are looking at it. It is a tough place but we are looking forward to it.”
By his own admission, Moyes has adopted a conservative approach to his first few games in the job. That stance now appears to have changed.
Rio Ferdinand’s absence – Moyes confirmed the 34-year-old would have missed the trip anyway even without the slight groin problem that eventually ruled – seems to be an admission the former England man cannot play back-to-back games. Anderson’s omission appears equally significant, and not in a good way for the Brazilian, who has not fulfilled the promise that brought him to United from Porto in 2007.
Wilfried Zaha’s omission, following a reserve team outing on Monday night, was predictable, even if Moyes’ continued refusal to select the £15 million summer arrival from Crystal Palace remains perplexing. At least Robin van Persie should start after his recent thigh complaint.
“He is fit,” said Moyes. “We will make a decision tomorrow whether we start him. He is as good as anybody I have seen. His football common sense is fantastic and he is a great goalscorer.”
Moyes may not have taken too kindly to the intense scrutiny being placed not just on results, but his public utterances.
He bristled when informed Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu had questioned his recent squad rotation. “It never caused Sir Alex Ferguson any problem when he did it,” he said.
But this is the high-profile role Moyes put himself forward for when he answered the call from Ferguson last spring.
And it was rammed home again when fans turned out to greet his team in their arrival in Donetsk last night.
“It is always the thing at Manchester United,” said Moyes. “Everyone is interested in them. It is a talking point for everybody throughout the world.
“That is why it is, for me, the greatest club. It is a great honour to be the manager. Even our arrival here in Donetsk has been greeted with a lot of supporters at the airport. It is a great thing.”