Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic has told his team-mates to get back to basics as they bid to ease the pressure on David Moyes at Sunderland on Saturday.
Under-fire boss Moyes has endured a bumpy beginning to his first season at Old Trafford, with United slumping to 12th in the Premier League table after their worst start since 1989. Defeats at bitter rivals Liverpool and Manchester City in the league had alarm bells ringing among United fans concerned Moyes won't be able to emulate Alex Ferguson's glorious reign, and last weekend's 2-1 home loss against West Bromwich Albion sparked a rare chorus of disapproval from the Old Trafford crowd.
United's 1-1 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday was a creditable result in the circumstances. But Serbian defender Vidic acknowledges United have been well below their best so far, and he believes his defence must provide a solid foundation to allow Moyes' men to get back on track against Sunderland, who sit bottom of the table without a manager after Paolo Di Canio's sacking and still waiting for their first win of the season.
"We have to accept it has not been a great start," Vidic said. "We have not been getting the performances we would have liked and we also have to be realistic enough to accept we have made some mistakes. This team has a lot of potential and we are working really well.
"Sometimes the results don't come. Sometimes the performances don't come. But I am really positive. The most important thing is to defend right. If we defend well, I think we have a really good chance to win trophies."
Across Manchester, City manager Manuel Pellegrini is also sorely in need of a victory after seeing his side crushed by Bayern Munich in midweek just days after a humbling loss at Aston Villa. Like Moyes, former Malaga manager Pellegrini has found it hard going since taking over in the close-season and, ahead of Saturday's clash against Everton, City defender Micah Richards admitted his side have to mount an immediate response.
"We have had two disappointing results," he said. "We don't like to lose two games back to back. We have got a winning mentality built into us. We have to put it right on Saturday. We are at home and we will give a good performance and hopefully get three points."
City and United have little margin for error as they are already five and eight points respectively behind leaders Arsenal, who head to West Brom on Sunday with confidence sky-high after a 2-0 win over Napoli in the Champions League.
Arsene Wenger's side have won five successive league matches to open up a two-point lead at the top and Tuesday's dazzling display against the Italians, which included a first Arsenal goal for club record £42.5 million signing Mesut Ozil, has only increased the feel-good factor.
Former Real Madrid midfielder Ozil has been the key to Arsenal's renaissance and Gunners defender Per Mertesacker says he has been helping his fellow German get used to life in London in an attempt to aid his transition.
"It is things like how to get on in London, how to come to the training ground, to get to whatever he wants to go. It is just a quick call or a text, you can help him out," Mertesacker said. "I need to help Ozil settle because it is very important to get him into the squad quickly, so that he can adapt and play with freedom. His vision is enormous and with him we are more dangerous and can compete at the higher levels."
Second placed Liverpool will expect to keep the pressure on Arsenal when they host struggling Crystal Palace.