Moyes: Players are not hiding
Under-fire Manchester United boss David Moyes insists his players are not hiding and believes they are doing "more than their best".
A dismal debut campaign as manager for the Scot has lurched into crisis since the turn of the year.
Successive defeats to Tottenham, Swansea and Sunderland - the first two at Old Trafford - have left the Red Devils on the brink of their worst losing sequence since 1961.
Against Swansea and Sunderland in particular, alarm bells started ringing amongst supporters at the meek manner of United's demise, totally out of keeping with the Sir Alex Ferguson era.
It has led to suggestions a group of title-winning players are taking shelter behind their manager and letting Moyes take all the flak for what is turning into United's worst season for almost a quarter of a century.
However, Moyes has dismissed the theory of a squad in hiding out of hand.
"I don't think any of the Manchester United players are," he said.
"Every one of them is standing up and doing what they can.
"You can never ask anyone to do more than their best and the players here are doing that."
Speaking at a sponsorship launch on Friday, United veteran Ryan Giggs acknowledged it was time for his team-mates to start performing at their maximum, and insisted they would come through their "test of character".
The work must start on Saturday, when Swansea return to Old Trafford in the Premier League.
Yet the job must be done without Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney, who both will again be absent with thigh and groin injuries.
Van Persie could be sidelined for "a while yet", according to Moyes, which is rather uncomfortable news given the Dutchman has figured only twice since scoring the winner against former club Arsenal on November 10.
Meanwhile, Rooney has been packed off to warmer climes in a bid to sort out his groin problem, which has not responded to treatment.
"Wayne will take his family and have a few days' break as well as working in the sunshine with one of the fitness coaches in the hope he can recover," said Moyes.
"It is not a serious injury. But it looks like something that could have done with 10 days or two weeks complete rest just to build up the strength."
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The hope is Rooney could be back for the visit to Chelsea on January 19, although there are no guarantees that will be the case, with Moyes equally uncertain about Van Persie's return date.
"Robin's injury is very similar to one he had at Arsenal," said the Scot.
"We are doing everything we can to get him back quickly."
With Marouane Fellaini, Ashley Young, Nani, Rio Ferdinand and Phil Jones also sidelined, Moyes would not have to look too far for a ready-made excuse for the extreme pressure he is under.
To his credit, he is refusing to look for it, even if Moyes does detect anti-United sentiment in some of this season's analysis.
"There are a lot of well educated people out there talking about football, who know a lot about it," he said.
"They are within their rights to give an opinion. I have no problem with that.
"When you are losing at Manchester United, that is correct. You are expected to win.
"But we were actually getting the same criticism when we were winning. That is where you question the people who are saying it now."
Moyes insists he has been through such periods before.
It is hard to compare United - where opinion is so wide-ranging and comes from so many different quarters - with Preston, or even Everton, as big a club as the Merseyside outfit undeniably is.
And Moyes could do with a little bit of good fortune helping him as even that has been in short supply recently.
"Form can come and go but you need things to go for you," he said.
"We have had a couple of really poor decisions in recent games which could have altered things.
"But that isn't a great talking point for the media. They would rather hear that Manchester United have lost.
"It is much easier to say that than put the facts to it."