Moyes vows to fight on in face of exit speculation
United manager insists board and Ferguson are fully behind his long-term plans for club
David Moyes decided to come out fighting on the day it was claimed that he had two key games to save his job and that his support in the Old Trafford boardroom is growing thin.
Manchester United's beleaguered manager insisted yesterday he still had the backing of the men who run the club and that his position had "not even been discussed". He had signed a six-year contract last summer, expected it to be honoured and insisted he still enjoyed predecessor Alex Ferguson's support. Moyes believed he would continue to be backed even if United go out of the Champions League tonight.
"My future has not changed one bit," he said, replying to a question over whether his job depended on United overturning a two-goal deficit against Olympiakos this evening. "I have a great job and I know exactly the direction I want to go in. It has not been the season we wanted but I have ideas I want to put in place."
Ferguson's constant presence at Old Trafford has been seen by many as something few other managers would have tolerated. However, Moyes believes it is a public demonstration of the support he still enjoys at a club who, if they are eliminated by the Greek champions, will have seen their last chance of a trophy disappear by mid-March. That has not happened since 1989.
"He has been incredibly supportive," said Moyes of Ferguson. "I speak with him regularly and see him at the games. He told me before I came in that it would be a difficult job but he is always there to help.
"The biggest assurance the owners have given me is they let me get on with the job," Moyes added. "They never discuss (my contract), we talk about the future, we make big plans. That is why they gave me a six-year contract. This is not a club that works on a short-term vision."
Nevertheless, United's horizons are narrowing very fast. Having lost the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie abjectly in Athens and surrendered to Liverpool on Sunday on a day the club invited its leading sponsors to Old Trafford, Moyes can afford defeat but not capitulation.
Should they fail to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League and lose Tuesday's Manchester derby, Moyes may find that support withdrawn. The Glazer family have shown themselves to be ruthless owners when overseeing their NFL side, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In December, they fired coach Greg Schiano after 11 months.
Moyes has endured eight torturous months but, as he begins the seven days that could decide his fate, he remained optimistic that the fans at least would stick by him.
"They have seen some defeats they wouldn't have expected and have stuck with the team throughout," he said. "They have had great success in the past and will see great success again in the future."
Looked at coldly and dispassionately, Manchester United's task is not that daunting. Olympiakos have lost every one of the 11 games they have played in England. They are champions of a near-bankrupt Greek League. This is the supreme moment of a season in which they have seldom been tested and the danger is they may freeze.
Their manager, Michel, who had watched United's capitulation against Liverpool, smiled: "My players are afraid of nothing. I am a little bit more scared than they are but I won't be on the pitch."
But the man who will be in the opposing dugout at Old Trafford appears something of a reluctant potential assassin.
"David Moyes is suffering and I don't like to see any manager suffering. I have sympathy for him," the Olympiakos manager said. "We know he works hard, but sometimes results don't mirror the hard work done.
"It's nothing personal to David Moyes. It's a big opportunity to knock Manchester United out of the competition, but David Moyes is not an enemy."
Part of the reason behind Olympiakos' success at home and in Europe this season has been the form of evergreen striker Javier Saviola. The 32-year-old has missed the club's last four matches with a thigh injury, but he has travelled to Manchester with the rest of the squad.
Michel would not reveal whether the club's top scorer would feature, though. (© Independent News Service)