Beleaguered Manchester United manager David Moyes has challenged his players to restore some pride by winning their four remaining matches. Fresh questions arose about the Scot's future on Sunday evening as the Red Devils stumbled to their 11th defeat of the campaign at Everton. United could only muster two attempts on target and Everton thoroughly deserved the 2-0 win, which meant they achieved their first double over the Old Trafford club in 44 years.
Moyes continues to paint a positive picture about the future, but he cannot hide from the statistics that show just how badly his first season at United has gone. United will end the season with their worst points total in Premier League history. They have failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League for the first time in two decades. And they will only guarantee UEFA Europa League football at Old Trafford next term if they overhaul the six-point gap that separates them from Tottenham Hotspur.
All those facts make uneasy reading for Moyes and the United faithful, so the 50-year-old wants to ease some of the pressure on his shoulders by taking maximum points from the final four games against Norwich City, Sunderland, Hull City and Southampton.
"We need to end the season on a high," Moyes told MUTV. "We want to finish by winning all of our games. We'll do everything we possibly can to make that happen."
Yet another blow hit Moyes on Sunday morning when it emerged that forward Danny Welbeck is considering his future at the club following a lack of game time this year.
Ferdinand, Mata, Rooney vent frustration
The embarrassment among the playing staff at losing yet another game so easily was clear on Monday morning. Rio Ferdinand, who was not in the squad at Goodison Park, took to Twitter to air his feelings. "Frustration & disappointment sums up the season so far," the United defender wrote.
Juan Mata had started to pay back some of his £37.5m price tag in recent weeks, but the Spaniard had an off-day at Goodison Park. "I feel very disappointed today," United's club-record signing wrote on his personal blog. This is how you feel when you spend two weeks waiting for a game, getting ready for it, and then things don't go the way you wanted. It happened in Goodison Park and the truth is this is not the first time, as you know.
"I hate this feeling. What the Premiership table shows now is something that neither the club nor the fans deserve. I hope the next game comes as soon as possible because, as you can imagine, this bad taste makes me mad."
Moyes gave a damning critique of his team's defending for both goals, describing it as "rank" and "rotten". Leighton Baines converted a penalty to give Everton the lead when Phil Jones inexplicably stuck his arm out to block Romelu Lukaku's shot, before Kevin Mirallas slipped through the away backline and beat David de Gea from a tight angle.
Wayne Rooney, captain on his return to Goodison Park, said recent defensive performances have not been up to scratch. "We conceded two really sloppy goals which we need to cut out because we're making it hard for ourselves to get back into games," he said. "For the second one, we should have stopped the counter-attack. They ran in behind us. It's not good enough."
Moyes unsatisfied with defenders
Moyes, providing he is still in charge, will embark upon a major spending spree this summer to address the deficiencies he has within his squad. He had hinted that he would not enter the market for a centre-back despite the impending departure of Nemanja Vidic. Moyes hoped Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans would be able to cope with the burden, but it appears Sunday's performance has left doubt in the Scot's mind.
He said: "We have Jonny Evans back and we're trying to make sure that Phil Jones and Chris Smalling get game time, but they've got to step up to the challenge. We can't afford to give goals away."