David Moyes has warned Sunderland they are likely to find themselves in yet another Premier League relegation battle after a demoralising start to the new season.
Two games and two defeats into the campaign, the Black Cats are pointless after Sunday’s 2-1 home defeat by derby rivals Middlesbrough, and the Scot was pulling no punches as he assessed his injury-hit squad’s prospects.
Asked what his response would be to fans who fear another survival scrap, Moyes said: “Well, they would probably be right because that’s where they’ve been every other year for the last four years, so why would it suddenly change?
“I think it will be, I don’t think you can hide the facts, that will be the case, yes. People will be flat because they are hoping that something is going to dramatically change – it can’t dramatically change, it can’t.”
Moyes went into the game having already lost central defender Younes Kaboul to Watford and facing a battle to hang on to Everton target Lamine Kone, who was missing with a back injury.
To make matters worse, skipper John O’Shea succumbed to a groin problem, which could yet have repercussions for the Republic of Ireland as they prepare to launch their World Cup qualifying campaign, in between the two first-half Cristhian Stuani goals which ultimately handed Boro the points.
The Black Cats now face a race against the clock to strengthen their squad before the transfer window closes with the manager admitting recruiting the right men at the right price is proving difficult.
He said: “What we have got, we are having to add to it with young players as well as one or two experienced players, and we have got to try to get the balance right and obviously choose and get the right players at the right price in the transfer market.
“That’s actually quite difficult. It’s easy said, but it’s not that easy and the prices, as you can imagine, are a bit more than they have been in the past.”
Stuani’s stunning 13th-minute opener came against the run of play, but his second on the stroke of half-time left Sunderland with a mountain to climb, although Patrick van Aanholt’s strike 19 minutes from time gave them hope.
Moyes said: “If we had come in 1-0 down at half-time, I still would have felt slightly undone by it because I didn’t think they had too many attempts at goal in the first half. But to come in 2-0 down, that made us flat, made it difficult.”
Opposite number Aitor Karanka was delighted by a first top-flight victory of his reign at the second attempt.
He said: “I am really pleased, especially for the players, because once again after the game last Saturday, they have shown that we are ready to play in the Premier League.
“I am especially pleased for our fans because we wave been waiting six or seven years to live another derby and after six or seven years, we have won the game, so I am really really pleased for them because they were supporting us when we were in the Championship and they deserve to enjoy it.”
Karanka was particularly pleased with Stuani’s contribution on a day when Boro took another step towards proving that they belong in the big time.
He said: “I have said always that we can’t make mistakes because in the Premier League, there are a lot of quality players. But also, we have a lot of quality players.
“Last week, it was Alvaro Negredo; this week, it was been Stuani; next week, it can be another one. For that reason, I am really pleased.
“The club this summer has been working really well behind the scenes because we have had almost all the squad since we arrived to start pre-season.”