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Moyes: My players are hurting
Manchester United manager David Moyes insists his players are hurting over the club's present slump.
United head into Tuesday's Champions League encounter with Shakhtar Donetsk in the throes of a crisis, following back-to-back home defeats in the Barclays Premier League.
It leaves them ninth in the table, struggling to even qualify for next season's tournament, let alone retain the championship.
More immediately, Moyes was not even born when the Red Devils last lost three successive games at Old Trafford, in the autumn of 1962, and if it happens again United will lose top spot in Group A and be pitched into a nasty knockout-round clash with one of Europe's heavyweights.
There have been allegations of a lack of fight - something Moyes does not entirely refute - but the Scot is adamant his players care.
"The players are hurting because they are used to winning," said Moyes.
"When they don't win that hurts them. They care very much about the team and the club.
"They are good lads and they will respond in the right way."
Yet, as he has done throughout his short reign, Moyes is confronting his problems head-on. And he is certainly not hiding behind excuses.
"I take complete responsibility for the results," he said.
"It is tough because the expectancy is to win all the games and the results have not been good in the Premier League.
"There is a bit of everything we could do with doing better.
"Generally we'd like to play better. We would like to pass it better, to create more chances, I'd like to defend better when those moments arise.
"I don't think it is any one thing, it is all round we are trying to improve."
As Moyes pointed out, it is only a month since United defeated Arsenal, and a fortnight after the five-goal hammering of Bayer Leverkusen that will go down as one of the club's great European away performances.
What has alarmed supporters almost as much as those defeats by Everton and Newcastle is the manner of the losses.
At the weekend in particular, once Yohan Cabaye scored, the lack of a response was strange for a club so used to grinding out late victories.
"I agree," said Moyes, when asked whether his team needed to show more belief and conviction.
"In recent games we haven't quite finished the games the way we would have liked to.
"We have tried to make changes to improve things but it hasn't quite happened."