David Moyes is coming under increasing pressure at Manchester United, but he insists his rebuilding of the squad is well under way.
Despite winning the title by 11 points last term, not many United fans expected Moyes to retain the crown in the wake of Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. However, even fewer would have expected to see such staggering regression, and it now seems almost certain that even a place in the top-four is beyond the outgoing champions.
The 3-0 reverse against Manchester City on Tuesday was their tenth defeat of the league campaign, and it leaves them in seventh place and 12 points adrift of Arsenal in fourth position. The Reds were dumped out of both domestic cup competitions by the end of January, and face champions Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League.
Whilst most fans were willing to give Moyes time to get to grips with succeeding the most successful club manager this country has ever seen, it appears their patience is now wearing thin. At the Stretford End a banner proclaiming the former Everton boss as ‘The Chosen One’ has even become a source of embarrassment to some, to such an extent stewards guarded it to save it from being hauled down after the derby defeat.
Moyes, who has so far signed Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata for a combined fee of around £64million, is prepared to take responsibility for his side’s failings in his debut season, but continues to insist he needs time to complete his rebuild of a squad which won the Premier League title by 11 points under Ferguson last term.
“I take responsibility for the team, I always will do,” said Moyes. “Everyone knows this is going to be a job which is going to take a little bit of time to get the way we would like it, but that is the job. I thought it would be a tough year for us, no doubt about that, but I hoped it would be much more competitive and closer to the top of the league than we are. But it [rebuilding] is under way. You don’t just suddenly change things around.
“A lot of other clubs have had to change and they have had to do rebuilding jobs and look at the time it has taken them to do that or get to a level of competing. We hope it won’t take us as long as some of those clubs have taken, but we have got a period of time where we are going to have to make sure we get to that level which we are not at just now.”
How much Moyes will be given to spend in the summer, if indeed he remains in position, remains to be seen, with some reports have indicated he could be handed as much as £150million to spend. What is clear is that United will have to use such cash wisely if they are to catch up with the likes of City and Chelsea next season.
United now face Aston Villa at home on Saturday afternoon, which could be a dangerous match considering the Midlands side have often performed better away from home this season and the Reds, on the other hand, have now lost six times at Old Trafford and have only scored a dismal 18 times in front of their own supporters. Attention will then turn to the Champions League and Bayern, a tie in which the Premier League side will be rank outsiders. Pep Guardiola’s side are unbeaten domestically this season, and are on course to repeating their feat of last term when they won the title.
City, meanwhile, are now just three points behind Chelsea with two games in hand, and look a good bet to win a second title in three years. However, Manuel Pellegrini, who succeeded Roberto Mancini during the summer, is refusing to take anything for granted, and has rejected the idea that the title is effectively theirs to lose.
“I don’t think so,” he told Sky Sports. “We will continue fighting with the other three teams, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, and we have to win the two postponed games and continue playing the way we play. I am not thinking about the title.”