David Moyes knows he needs a miracle to save Sunderland from relegation, but at least he does not need one to save his job.
Sunderland are eight points adrift of safety following their failure to beat Burnley, a side that has not won a league game away from home all season. With 10 games remaining, they look doomed, yet Moyes remains safe from harm.
The Scot has not had the impact he wanted. It has been a depressing battle against the drop ever since he arrived last July, too late in pre-season to oversee the recruitment needed to improve a poor squad, only to then discover the club was too poor in January to do what was needed in the winter window.
It has been a largely listless campaign, but the club’s owner, Ellis Short, who has been more interested in trying to find a buyer than anything else for most of Moyes’s eight-month reign, has belatedly recognised the need for stability in the dugout.
The presence of Short at the weekend looked ominous for Moyes given the American’s propensity for firing managers in a desperate attempt to keep the club in the Premier League.
It was only the second game this season Short has attended a home game, but senior club sources are adamant it was not to prepare the ground for Moyes’s sacking. Having changed manager every season since 2010 to keep Sunderland in the top flight, Short intends to stick by the one who looks like he will finally take them down.
Moyes has had his critics, but there is generally a recognition, because of the job he did at Everton, that he remains the right man to rebuild, even if it is from the wreckage of relegation.
Moyes has not conceded defeat, but he knows how bleak things are. His only crumb of comfort is that Sunderland have been in this sort of position before and survived.
Few expect them to do so again, but it is something to cling on to after his side missed a series of chances in the second half against Burnley, for who goalkeeper Tom Heaton was once again impressive.
“We are getting close to needing something special,” said Moyes. “It’s been done here regularly. Let’s hope. I’m not kidding anyone on – it’ll need some really big results. I saw a big effort from the players, but I know it’s going to be tough.”
For their part, Burnley remain winless on the road, but can be more than satisfied. Having decided not to sack Sean Dyche when they were relegated in 2015, Burnley have come back stronger and their manager’s stock has soared.
Dyche has been linked with Sunderland in the past and, interestingly, refused to say the Black Cats should stick with Moyes if they go down, but one of his players, Scott Arfield, insisted that is precisely what they need to do.
“100 per cent they should,” said Arfied, when asked if Moyes should keep his job. “I really believe continuity is massive. Burnley are proof of that. Maybe we can act as an example to teams like Sunderland if they go down.”