David Moyes insisted that Manchester United were still in the Premier League title race on Saturday despite his side suffering another shock home defeat which will leave them a daunting 15 points behind the leaders if Arsenal win at home against Everton today.
United's 1-0 defeat to Newcastle United at Old Trafford yesterday was their second reverse at home in just four days and means they have lost five of their first 15 league matches under Moyes, who admitted his team are playing poorly and lacking confidence. It is the side's worst start to a season since 2001-02.
But the Scot called for understanding that the club are in a "transition" period following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. "When I came here I knew it would not always be easy and it is proving that way," Moyes admitted. "There is that period of transition but we hoped it would not be quite as poor as it has been in the last few games. But we will get it right." Of the title race, Moyes added: "I stand firm that we will be very close to it and that we will be in and around it come the end of the season."
Moyes was awarded a six-year contract when he succeeded Ferguson last summer and he retains the full support of the United board and the club's owners, the Glazer family, but there will be growing concern at the team's form. United are ninth in the table and are seven points behind Manchester City in fourth. Moyes will be given funds to spend but had hoped to postpone wholesale changes until next summer. He may now have to try to accelerate some of his transfer plans to the January window.
"There is a big transition going on here. Neither they [the fans] nor me expected us to lose five matches but it's the same players who won the Premier League last year," Moyes said. Asked whether he felt he had made too many changes, Moyes said: "I don't think I have changed anything. I have brought one player in [Marouane Fellaini for pounds 27?million]. If I had changed it then there is something you could be critical of." Of yesterday's loss he added that his team were suffering from a lack of confidence. "Because we are Manchester United we have to do better," he said. "We have to play better, pass it better and create more chances.".
There was sympathy for Moyes from Newcastle manager Alan Pardew: "It is tough and events worked against him a little bit without [the suspended] Wayne Rooney. But he's a great manager and a great person and the best thing United can do is stick by him and support him. That's what they did with Alex Ferguson." Pardew was a player for Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final in 1990 - the first trophy that Ferguson won as United manager, when his future was being questioned.
"I remember when Sir Alex got out of jail," he said. "David might have a year like that when it is touch and go for him. "I know we probably won't get the headlines because of poor old United and David but we deserve the headlines."