at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Manchester, United Kingdom – Manchester United manager David Moyes will hope the faltering English champions can stem the rising tide of criticism coming his way against Aston Villa in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Moyes was the handpicked successor of former United boss Alex Ferguson, British football's most successful manager, who retired at the end of last season.
That led some fans to honour Moyes by draping a banner bearing the words “The Chosen One” at the Stretford End of United's Old Trafford ground.
However, such has been United's slump, one angry supporters' group has threatened to hire a plane towing the message “Chosen wrong, Moyes out” over Old Trafford during the Villa match.
But Villa manager Paul Lambert said that would be excessive, insisting Moyes Ä who has signed a six-year contract Ä would stay at United for the foreseeable future.
“Some of the criticism is way over top,” Lambert said of the flak coming the way of his fellow Scottish manager.
“He has a huge job Ä and it's not as if he is standing there feeling good Ä he's fuming like anyone else.
“For him to receive that level of criticism is not nice. Flying a plane over stadium saying he's not wanted is a bit extreme.
“I fully expect him to remain Manchester United boss.”
Tuesday's humbling 3-0 derby defeat at home to title contenders Manchester City, their 10th league defeat of the season, left seventh-placed United a massive 18 points behind leaders Chelsea and 12 adrift of a top four finish that will secure qualification for next term's elite European Champions League.
Those include include two successive 3-0 defeats by arch-rivals Liverpool and City, both vying for the Premier League trophy, in United's last two home league matches.
And with European champions Bayern Munich, who recently retained their Bundesliga title, visiting Old Trafford next week for the first leg of a Champions League quarter-final, Moyes knows United cannot afford a fresh slip-up against Birmingham-based Villa.
After the City match, United defender Rio Ferdinand urged all connected with the club to fall in behind former Everton manager Moyes.
“Losing a game is something that I will never enjoy experiencing,” said the former England centre-back.
“Sticking together and working hard to right the wrongs is a must.”
Moyes used midfielder Michael Carrick as a centre-back in the 2-0 win at West Ham last weekend because of injuries to several first-choice defenders.
Ferdinand played in the defeat by City despite struggling with a recent back problem and it remains to be seen whether the veteran is fit enough to feature again against Villa, currently nine points above the relegation zone.
Nemanja Vidic, who is set to join Inter Milan at the end of the season, is out with a calf injury, as is Jonny Evans, while Chris Smalling has a hamstring problem.
Moyes is also set to be without striker Robin van Persie until the start of May due to the Dutch forward's strained knee as his team look to end a miserable run of form at Old Trafford that has seen them win just six, and lose six, of their 15 home matches this season.
Villa, who've won just one of their last 29 matches at Old Trafford, courtesy of Gabriel Agbonlahor's header five years ago, expect to have Andreas Weimann available following a dead leg although Karim El Ahmadi (thigh) is doubtful.
Lambert's side beat Premier League leaders Chelsea a fortnight ago before losing 4-1 at home to Stoke last week.
“The contrast from Chelsea to Stoke was like night and day,” said Lambert. “We need to make sure it does not happen again.” – Sapa-AFP