Patrice Evra may well not be a Manchester United player next season but you wouldn’t know it by the way he talks about the club.
Earlier in the season, Moyes praised Evra’s contribution behind the scenes and his pre-match interview with Geoff Shreeves before the Aston Villa game was superb. At a time where few players talked the talk, Evra stood up.
When David Moyes came out for his pre-match press conference following the defeat to Liverpool, you expected him to be bullish in his talk about the poor result against Liverpool and confident in United’s ability to reach the Champions League quarter-final.
Instead, it was Evra who issued the rallying cry, not Moyes.
“Everyone wants to fight for this club,” he said.
“Everyone loves this club. We know we had a bad game in the first leg. I think even a three-year-old Man United fan has been hurting by all the problems. But in life you always have a second chance. I’m not telling you we are going to qualify but I can promise we are all going to fight and respect the shirt.”
That’s the sort of no nonsense talk United fans have wanted to hear from Moyes all season (although, equally so, Evra has talked the talk but not walked the walk all season as in some matches, he has been very poor).
Instead, Moyes has chosen to remain meek throughout his tenure, perched atop a delicate fence he does not wish to come down from and yesterday’s press conference was no different.
He said: “I think when you lose in the fashion we did, and to one of our biggest rivals, there’s always disappointment. We know it’s a big week but as soon as it’s over, we concentrated on this game. We got the players in on Monday and told them the only thing that matters is this game.
“It’s only twice United have done it [come back from a two-goal deficit in the first leg], most recently in 1984 against Barcelona. Robbo got two goals. It’s not something that’s happened a lot but it’s something we’ll try to make happen.
“I see the players every day. With the quality they show me, I think they know they can play bettered. I have belief in the players and hopefully we can show it. I agree we haven’t seen it as often as we’d have liked but hopefully we can show it tomorrow.
“The most important thing right now is the Olympiacos game and to get through into the next round of the competition.”
Sure, being strong with his words would see Moyes come under a similar scrutiny than if he perched on the fence. However, the important factor is that scrutiny would come from the press and rival fans – Manchester United’s support would be buoyed by a defiant Moyes and that is what is needed right now.
Fans remained strong and unwavering in their support for Moyes but the defeat in Athens was a significant turning point. When United fans erupted in ‘20 times, 20 times’ against Liverpool, they were singing in support for the club, not Moyes directly.
This frustration about Moyes’ meek approach in press conference hasn’t come purely from this week, it has been a gripe that most fans have had all season but because it has continued without change, even after the humiliation by Liverpool, that frustration has surfaced.