'Energy Vampire' David Moyes must think positive to rebuild Sunderland
At some point, David Moyes will emerge from his post-Manchester United nightmare, but it won't happen this week.
He has suffered enough misery at Sunderland this season to last a lifetime, but with the already-relegated club's season drawing to a close with away games at Arsenal and Chelsea over the coming days, it is difficult envisage a ray of sunshine breaking through the dark grey clouds hanging over the Scot and his team.
What happens next, however, once the curtain falls on the season next Sunday is likely to be the most important decision of Moyes' career.
Accepting the United job in 2013 was a big moment, but it was not a decision Moyes had to make himself because it was a job he simply could not turn down. Since walking into Old Trafford, though, Moyes has seen his career enter a downward spiral, largely due to a series of bad decisions on his part.
He did not make many good ones at United, then jumped too quickly into a job he was ill-suited for at Real Sociedad. After he was sacked in Spain, he took what seemed a good job at Sunderland, but almost from day one, his downbeat appraisal of the team he inherited set in motion a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Moyes predicted doom and gloom and he was right, but a touch of optimism and positivity might just have helped steer Sunderland towards the light.
There is a misconception about Moyes that he is simply too honest for his own good; the reality is that honesty is just him laying down reasons for failure before it has actually happened.
At United, his first news conference was marked by his claim that he had "never seen United handed a tougher start in any season," after the fixture computer had dished out clashes with Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City in the opening five games.
Then at Sunderland, after his second game in charge in August, he made the pessimistic assertion that the club would face a relegation battle, despite having 10 more days to do business in the transfer window.
Then came the warning to fans in January that "to suggest that a player we might bring in would be making a big difference would not be correct."
While Sam Allardyce kept Sunderland up last season on a wave of optimism and belief -- and he has saved Crystal Palace with a similar approach this season -- Moyes goes the other way, looking for pitfalls around every corner and issuing warnings of trouble ahead.
When one report recently claimed that the players at Sunderland have nicknamed Moyes the "Energy Vampire," it seemed a harsh, but appropriate, description of his ability to find the downside in any situation. And it is a personality trait that has seen patience among the Sunderland supporters evaporate.
The fans have called for Moyes to be sacked in recent games and his decision to head straight down the tunnel following Saturday's 2-0 defeat against Swansea City, rather than acknowledge the supporters following the final home game of the season, only served to antagonise them further.
Moyes insisted he left quickly because he "didn't want to make it any worse" but there are times when a manager must ride out the storm and that was one of them.
Sunderland owner Ellis Short is due to meet Moyes next week to discuss strategy and transfer budgets in order to bounce back from relegation at the first attempt, but the biggest issue right now is the manager's broken relationship with the supporters. They are tired of Moyes' negativity, so unless he changes his approach, the mood around the club next season risks compromising any hopes of promotion.
Moyes can turn the situation around, but he has to change the record and focus on the positives.
Sunderland will be the club with the biggest stadium and one of the biggest fanbases in the Championship. Their facilities on and off the pitch are top-class and it is a club with the power to attract players and rebuild quickly.
The club will eventually recover from this season, but Moyes may not. The only way he can rehabilitate his flagging career is by sticking with Sunderland and finding a way to tap into their strengths rather than highlighting the weaknesses.
He will find it difficult to get a better job elsewhere if he leaves at the end of the season as h has now become a manager associated not only with failure, but with alienating supporters too.
Moyes has no option but to stay at Sunderland and try to rebuild the club at the same time as rebuilding his reputation. But it is time to look on the bright side and allow positivity to heal the scars of his United experience.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_