David Moyes defends tactics and thanks Manchester United fans for keeping faith ahead of Arsenal meeting

United could find themselves 12 points adrift of the Champions League places with defeat at the Emirates tonight

When he sits down to watch Arsenal play Manchester United in one of English football's great set-piece occasions, Roy Hodgson might recognise something of himself in the man in the away dugout.

Once, the England manager stood where David Moyes now is. He had come to Liverpool with an enviable CV and reputation – his achievements in taking Fulham to a European final had made him manager of the year in 2010. Five months into the job he was depicted as a chronic incompetent, whose tactics were portrayed as primitive and who failed to grasp that his every statement and his every tactical adjustment would be analysed to destruction.

There is one difference between Hodgson's Liverpool and Moyes's Manchester United. Anfield felt Hodgson was beneath them and were not slow to advertise their feelings. Some hankered for Rafa Benitez; others yearned for the return of Kenny Dalglish.

The most astonishing thing about the disintegration of Manchester United is the club has held together, at least in public. When another England manager, Terry Venables, was given the keys to Barcelona, he was told the fans would either build a statue to him or set fire to his car. There are too many statues at Old Trafford already and Moyes' car and his job are not yet under threat.

The Stretford End with its banner proclaiming Moyes as "The Chosen One" has held fast to Sir Alex Ferguson's public pledge – an oath almost – for it to support his successor. Even their former captain, Roy Keane, one of the most unforgiving men ever to have played at Old Trafford, insisted that Moyes be backed with time and the money to buy half a dozen players. Keane placed the blame for United's decline squarely on Ferguson's regime. "They have cut corners in terms of transfers in the last few years," he said. "They have not gone out and got the big players and it has caught up with them this year."

Nevertheless, had he been in Madrid or Milan, it is hard to imagine Moyes would have survived being seventh in mid-February. "The supporters have been fantastic," he said. "That's why the right clubs pick the right managers and the right managers pick the right clubs. That's why I always hoped and dreamt Manchester United would come in for me.

"I was given a six-year contract because it was a long-term deal. It was always going to take time. There has been rebuilding going on year after year here and we will continue to do that."

Hodgson was never accused of producing Conference-level football as Moyes was after the 2-2 draw with a Fulham side that, according to its manager, Rene Meulensteen, had fallen as low as it could.

The Fulham defender, Dan Burn, who had played in the Conference and who headed away 22 of United's 81 crosses on Sunday evening, something he had not done since at Darlington, probably did not mean to suggest that the champions of England were now a fifth-tier operation.

However, two days after a match that the Manchester Evening News had described on its front page as a "debacle", Moyes was still riled by suggestions from Meulensteen, once Ferguson's right-hand man, that United's tactics had been easy to counter.

"You need to have a football intelligence, a football brain to understand that, first of all," said Moyes. "You have to be able to know that if teams cram the middle of the pitch, the space would be out wide where you would go to try to pick out team-mates.

"If we had played the game and had no crosses, we would have been criticised for not crossing the ball. I thought only one team came to win. I thought we played on a one-way street."

Moyes' first season has been full of spluttering starts and stalled engines. United's 1-0 win over Arsenal in November rivals the 5-0 rout of Bayer Leverkusen as their finest post-Ferguson performance. It was not built on but it showed what could be achieved.

"It was a really good performance just before the international break and we went away in a really good period," he said. "We have probably been a bit rocky since then. We were getting into a stronger position but we never picked it up."

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living