David Moyes has admitted he may have to suffer "many more blows" this season as he takes control of a Manchester United squad he believes needs two more elite players to win trophies, having won a poor Premier League last season.
In a brutally honest assessment of the squad that was torn apart by Manchester City at the weekend, Moyes said that the poor form of other sides in the Premier League race, which United won by 11 points in May, had contributed to the mistaken impression that the job he took on was ready-made for him. Moyes did not go so far as to suggest that United's 20th title flattered them but the fact he felt forced to play Michael Carrick in midfield at the Etihad on Sunday, despite the player suffering flu, provides an insight into the strictures he feels he has.
Moyes said ahead of another forbidding clash, against Liverpool in Wednesday night's Capital One Cup third round, that "a lot of people" thought the title race was only about Manchester United last season. But "it was probably the [form] of other teams that were poor," he said. Moyes does not feel he is short of squad players but is in need of "one or two" players who can go straight into his starting XI, during the first transfer market he will have a genuine run at, in January. United are ready to go back for Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ander Herrera.
Moyes refused to discuss the claims from Real Madrid president Fiorentino Perez that United had also been in the hunt for Gareth Bale, as The Independent reported last month.
"I don't think it's actually the squad," Moyes said. "I think we've got numbers. I think maybe where we've got work to do is bring players in… to go right into the team – so that's the slightly different equation. We needed one or two who might have just gone in [to the team]. But that will happen. But going back to that [summer] transfer window, we always said it was going to be a tough one and it was going to take a little bit more time."
Moyes clearly feels he is short of game-changing players in midfield. The fact that he preferred an ill Carrick to Tom Cleverley and Anderson says most about the latter two, while Shinji Kagawa and Luis Nani – who might get an opportunity at Old Trafford tonight – are seemingly individuals in whom he does not yet have faith.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers pointed out that United are the champions, advancing an argument which undermined Moyes's own defence. "They've got the squad there and bought more players. It's still a champion squad so I'm sure he is looking to make his own mark on it," he said.
But Moyes insisted there may be more punishment to follow Sunday's 4-1 defeat to City. "Yes, it does mean I may have to take a few more blows, definitely," he said. "Maybe even more than that. Maybe all season I have to take a few blows. But I knew this was going to be the case because I was taking over from a great manager and it was always going to take time for me to get my own ways and change things round a little bit. It doesn't mean big jobs but there are some things … So we have to make sure we are right and get ready for the next game."
Though many managers would not have appeared to discuss a League Cup fixture on the back of a defeat like Sunday's – Sir Alex Ferguson did not consent to press conferences for such occasions – it was a sign of Moyes' resolve that he did so. There were signs when he spoke before the television cameras that he has absorbed the welter of criticism that has come his way in the past four days. Asked if he had seen a reaction from his players in training, he replied testily: "It doesn't really matter whether I've seen it or not… it's what you people see..."
There was a sense that Moyes feels that his own methods – which include a more intensive training ground regime – need time to take hold. To the question of whether he has felt the need to change anything since Sunday, he said: "No. Because if we did, then it would mean there are things we aren't doing right in the first place. When you've got the players we have got I can see it's written all over their face how they feel. And when you've got ones like that you hope there will be a reaction and I'm sure there will be."
Attempts to ask Moyes specifically about Ashley Young, whose poor performance against City compounded a dreadful start to the new era at Old Trafford for the 28-year-old were cut short by his press secretary, though the manager said it would take some players time to adapt to new methods and a new regime. "I've taken the punches and I'm happy to do that," said Moyes – who revealed that the groin strain which kept Robin van Persie out of Sunday's side also makes him a doubt for Saturday's Premier League encounter at home to West Bromwich Albion.
"Not for a minute did I think this Manchester United job was going to be an easy job. There will be days like we had on Sunday and there might be more of them because we are in a period where there will be transition. We looked quite easy to play against which is not the norm for Manchester United."