Manchester United fans hold key to David Moyes's future
Scot still has fans' backing despite Liverpool defeat but poor results in next three games could determine board's resolve
Despite enduring the ignominy of a 3-0 defeat against Brendan Rodgers’s players – a result which boosted Liverpool’s hopes of ending their 24-year wait for the league championship – Moyes was spared the wrath of the United fans, who ended the game with prolonged vocal backing of the team.
The manner of United’s performance has been described as “awful” by the club’s power brokers, who have growing concerns over the alarming run of results since the turn of the year which have seen Moyes’s team beaten in seven of their 14 games.
But with the Old Trafford crowd continuing to display the patience demanded of them by Sir Alex Ferguson following his retirement in May last year, the club’s owners, the Glazer family, remain hopeful that Moyes can arrest the slump and take United forward, beginning with the Champions League clash with Olympiakos in Manchester on Wednesday.
United must overturn a 2-0 first-leg defeat in Athens last month to progress to the quarter-finals, and such a result would banish any immediate danger of Moyes losing his job.
However, while the position of the United board is understood to remain unchanged in the wake of the Liverpool defeat, a negative result against Olympiakos would place immense pressure on Moyes to guide his team to victories against West Ham United at Upton Park on Saturday and in the Manchester derby against Manchester City at Old Trafford next Tuesday.
Should Moyes bear the brunt of supporter frustration in any of those fixtures, however, the backing of the Glazers may finally be tested following the worst run of results in the club’s recent history.
“Yesterday was one of the worst days I’ve had in football and was hard to take,” Rooney said.
“Having said that, the fans were brilliant right until the end under difficult circumstances so I would like to thank them for that. We need to move on as we have a big game on Wednesday.
“If the fans can repeat an atmosphere like Sunday then we will have a good chance of going through. Thanks again for all your support.”
The ongoing backing of the Old Trafford crowd also prompted United midfielder Juan Mata to admit the anguish of the players in the wake of the Liverpool defeat.
Mata, United’s £37.1 million club record signing, will miss the Olympiakos game after becoming cup-tied by appearing in the Champions League group stages with Chelsea this season, but he insisted that Moyes’s players were determined to turn a corner.
“There are no words to describe your support in the stadium,” Mata wrote in his personal online blog.
“In games like yesterday [Liverpool] it makes me mad not being able to give you what you deserve. I know there is nothing I can say right now but at least I want you to know how I feel. The storm will pass and the sun will rise again. I have no doubt.
“Besides, no one said this would be easy but this is football. It gives you fantastic moments but also very hard times you have to cope with, when you have to show pride and professionalism until the end.
"And when all this is gone I’m sure I will be a more mature footballer.” Moyes’s inability to coax the best from Mata, or the £27.5 million August signing Marouane Fellaini, has increased the pressure on the manager to convince the Glazers of his ability to invest successfully this summer should he remain in charge.
Moyes is understood to have been engaged in lengthy meetings with his coaching staff at Carrington on Monday ahead of what has become a pivotal fixture against Olympiakos.
Ryan Giggs, who has denied rumours of a fall-out with Moyes, was not present in those meetings due to a pre-planned coaching course at St George’s Park.
Elimination from the Champions League on Wednesday would extinguish United’s only remaining hope of qualifying for the competition again next season, forcing the club to face the prospect of the Europa League or, if they remain in their current position of seventh, no European football for the first time since the lifting of the Heysel ban, in 1990.
United have insisted privately that a campaign out of Europe, while damaging the club’s reputation, would not affect finances and the ongoing commercial health.
However, Moyes and his players have been made aware that qualification for Europe remains a priority and potentially the only way to salvage a positive outcome from this season.