Football

BREAKING POINT

Fans torn between allegiance and blind faith as Moyes' position becomes untenable

MAN UNITED v ASTON VILLA

(Tonight, 8.45pm, SingTel mio TV Ch 102 & StarHub TV Ch 227)

Should David Moyes go?

If the majority of Manchester United fans have their way, this is not a matter of should he or should he not, but a question of when.

In their perfect world, the United manager will ride horseback into the sunset, never to be seen anywhere in Manchester again.

On every platform imaginable, United supporters, from armchair critics to journalists to our canteen cashier, have called for his head.

Recent developments suggest that something's got to give.

Veteran and one-club man Ryan Giggs is the latest United player to reportedly have had a bust-up with the former Everton manager.

Some fans, after the humbling 3-0 home loss to city rivals Manchester City in midweek, attempted to rip down a stadium banner that reads "The Chosen One", forcing the stewards to guard what was originally put up by fans in honour of Moyes.

United can prevent a banner from being taken down, but they can't stop them from putting one up.

Some angry fans seem intent to take their dissatisfaction to a whole new level.

They plan to get a plane, with a banner that reads "The Wrong One - Moyes out", to fly over Old Trafford during tonight's match against Aston Villa.

In times of crisis, rumours spread like a Riau forest fire at this time of the year.

Already, United have been forced to dismiss speculation that the Glazers have given up on their own club, and that a Qatari consortium are moving in with a £2 billion ($4.2b) bid.

But United need a scapegoat - first things first.

BLAME

According to the Daily Mail, senior board members blame Sir Alex Ferguson for leaving the club in an appalling state.

If true, Moyes' time, and that spells misery for some people, will be extended.

But, in football, fickle loyalty is the oxymoronic constant.

With a daunting two-leg Champions League quarter-finals against the seemingly-unstoppable Bayern Munich coming up, and the potential for a humiliating scoreline very real, the finger-pointing may turn towards Moyes.

However, a minority has chosen to stand by the man.

The United way, as they call it, is to not push the panic button and to simply give the man time to do his job.

They point out that even Fergie endured a bad start to his United career, and remind all that success followed only after the club persisted with him through those difficult times.

There is a big difference though.

What many neglected to mention was the fact that Fergie took over a mediocre team and didn't manage to turn things around quickly enough for some people.

The Red Devils were joint-third from bottom, on points, in the old 22-team Division One when he assumed control in late 1986.

He saved them from relegation by guiding them to 11th place at the end of the first season, and to the runners-up spot in the following campaign.

He did, however, take six years to deliver his first league title for United.

FAT HOPE

But what Moyes effectively did was to turn a championship-winning side into a team that have as good a chance of qualifying for next season's Champions League as me going on a romantic spa couple package with Natalie Portman.

United, currently in seventh spot, are guaranteed to finish with a lowest-ever Premiership points tally.

Consecutive 3-0 losses to Liverpool and City in their last two home league matches also mark the first time in Premiership history that they have lost all their matches to their two most bitter rivals in a single term.

In times like this, allegiance and blind faith are divided by a very fine line.

MOYES: FANS AND STAFF BACK ME

David Moyes insists he retains the support of the majority of Manchester United fans.

A group of supporters have clubbed together to pay for a light aircraft to fly over Old Trafford today, trailed by a banner that reads "Wrong One - Moyes Out".

The United boss said fans were "entitled" to organise such a protest after recent results, but the Scot insists he is supported by most fans, the club's board and the playing staff.

"Everywhere I go, I get great support from Manchester United supporters," Moyes said.

"I was at a dinner last night for Darren Fletcher and there were Manchester United supporters who came up to me and said, 'Come on, keep going, we understand exactly the situation the club are in and team are in'.

"They were really supportive and every time I have been to Old Trafford they have been great.

"I am seeing a lot different from what a lot of people are saying but I understand that results matter."

When asked about the fly-by, Moyes said: "I have heard of it and what they are saying about it, but this is something which is a long journey here, this is only the start of the journey.

"People can do that. They are entitled to do that."

Moyes, whose team lie seventh in the Premier League, insists the protest against him has only strengthened his resolve to turn United's fortunes around.

"I am more driven to succeed more than ever. I want to change this position we are in now and I believe we can do that," he said.

"I am hurting and the players are hurting, but we are working hard."

Reports of unrest among the playing staff emerged following Tuesday's 3-0 defeat by Manchester City - the club's sixth home defeat of the campaign.

When asked if he retained the support of the playing staff, Moyes said: "Definitely. I have no reason to suggest anything else. We work together and have a great relationship."

Another defeat at Old Trafford would give United their worst home record since 1974.

They are already guaranteed to end the campaign with their worst points total in Premier League history.

Further pressure will be heaped on Moyes if United lose to Aston Villa tonight, but the Scot insists people should be looking at the long term, rather than the short term.

REBUILDING

"There's a rebuilding plan under way and anybody who has an understanding of the game understands that will happen," he said.

Sir Bobby Charlton said before the derby defeat that Moyes was "absolutely" the right choice to replace Sir Alex Ferguson, even though some have claimed that results have suggested differently.

United defender Rio Ferdinand said he had been "embarrassed" by the team's form at times this year.

Moyes says results have taken their toll on him and the rest of the United squad too.

"Everybody's hurting," he said.

"The players are hurting. They're really good professionals who work incredibly hard at their jobs and it's the same for the management staff as well.

"We're working hard to try and make sure we get winning teams, but the players are hurting as well." - PA Sport.