Protest banner no bother for Moyes
David Moyes, the embattled manager of Manchester United, remains defiant despite the prospect of public humiliation at the hands of a group of angry supporters.
Hailed as the 'Chosen One' for being the hand-picked successor to former United boss Alex Ferguson, who retired as British football's most succesful manager at the end of last season, Moyes has overseen a sharp decline in his first term in charge of the now ailing Premier League champions.
And such has been United's slump -- they are 18 points behind leaders Chelsea and 12 adrift of the top four -- one angry fans' group has threatened to hire a plane towing the message "Chosen wrong, Moyes out" over Old Trafford during Saturday's match at home to Aston Villa.
"I've heard what they are saying about it (the banner)," Moyes told a news conference on Friday.
"People can do that, and obviously they are entitled to do that," added the former Everton manager.
"It's not what I've been witnessing," insisted Moyes. "I'm witnessing great support inside the ground, I'm witnessing great support from the people I bump into outside.
"It's a long journey, and this is only the start. I'm more determined than ever to succeed," said Moyes, who is on a six-year contract at United.
This week Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore suggested that the decline of United, a major commercial player off the field as well as a dominant force on it, was damaging the worldwide profile of the league.
"When your most popular club isn't doing as well, that costs you interest and audience in some places," said Scudamore during a promotional visit to Johannesburg.
- Worst-performing champions -
"There's lots of fans around the world who wish Manchester United were winning it again," he added.
But they will have to wait one season a least.
United can now only reach a maximum total of 72 points this season, which would be their lowest in the Premier League.
And if they finish in their current position of seventh they will match Blackburn Rovers in 1995 as the worst-performing defending champions of the Premier League era.
Seventh place would also mean they'd miss out on European football next season, unless they win this term's Champions League, where they face in-form holders Bayern Munich in a quarter-final first leg tie at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
The latest of six home league defeats this season, against great rivals Liverpool and in midweek against neighbours Manchester City, both by a crushing 3-0 margin, have led to open rebellion among some United supporters.
Apart from the planned fly-past, a fans' poll in the Manchester Evening News showed 73 percent of voters want to remove the "Chosen One" banner draped over the Stretford End of Old Trafford.
United have also been criticised publicly by former players from the Ferguson era, including the once infamously reserved Paul Scholes, adding to the feeling that Moyes' tenure is approaching a tipping point with the Champions League the only remaining, if unlikely, avenue for redemption.
But Moyes insisted: "Everywhere I go I get great support from Manchester United supporters.
"I was at a charity dinner last (Thursday) night and supporters were saying 'come on, keep going', they understand exactly the situation the club and the team are in, they were really supportive.
"I've seen different from what people are saying.
"But I understand the results are what matter. It's a results-driven business and I'm keen to get the results and move up the table."
Moyes added: "The people who put me in place here are top football people who understand and know exactly what's required at Manchester United, and know exactly the characters you need to have at the club and run the club.
"We are working hard to make sure we get a winning team. We have a great relationship (with the players) as far as I'm concerned.
"But what I really want is for us to have a winning team, me and them together."