Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

With United Being Put to the Sword, Moyes Is like Python's Black Knight

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

With United Being Put to the Sword, Moyes Is like Python's Black Knight

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Jones

THERE is a famous moment in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when King Arthur has just cut off the Black Knight's arm.

"Tis but a scratch," exclaims the knight, as blood spurts out of his shoulder and his arm lies on the forest floor beside him.

"A scratch?" says Arthur, incredulously.

"You're arm's off!" I don't need to quote any more of the scene (although believe me, I can). I merely want to observe that there is more than a little of the Black Knight about Manchester United and David Moyes at the moment, as they scrap their way through the first quarter of the season: limbs falling off but a comically determined look on their faces. A great number of painful blows have been rained upon the Premier League champions since August. The Wayne Rooney melodrama. The transfer window fiasco. The worst League start since 1989, with losses to Manchester City, Liverpool and West Brom. Last night's draw in the Champions League against Shakhtar Donetsk did not exactly give the impression that good times are about to roll in again.

The refusal to panic -- emanating from the club's board down to posters on fans' talkboards -- is in a sense admirable.

Sir Alex Ferguson said in an interview on American TV this week that everything would be "fine". Ferguson's protege and successor David Moyes said "the results will come". The bookies still have United odds-on to finish in the top four.

But there is a certain seriousness to a club of United's size, history and grandeur going in to this weekend's Premier League matches hoping that they can get a result at Sunderland in order to squeeze past West Brom and Hull City and make it into the top half of the table.

It's all very well saying "we'll be fine, give it time". But this, as Ferguson was fond of saying, is Manchester United. They absolutely need to swagger their way past Sunderland. Anything else is big trouble since -- to return to the Black Knight -- the last thing Moyes wants to be doing after Saturday's game is hopping about in front of the cameras claiming "it's just a flesh wound".

All this said, however, there is something rather enjoyable about the fact that for the first time in a generation the Premier League is taking its earlyseason shape without United in the mix. …

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