Less than two months after taking his first senior management job as Valencia coach - Gary Neville is facing serious questions over how long he has left in the position.
Yesterday’s 1-1 draw at Deportivo La Coruna means Neville is still searching for a first La Liga win after seven attempts. It followed Thursday’s disappointing quarter-final 1-1 first leg draw at home to Las Palmas which put their Copa del Rey hopes in danger.
The club’s aim of Champions League qualification was five points away when the former Manchester United defender arrived in early December.
That gap to fourth placed Villarreal is now a whopping 16 points, and unless things turn around quickly Neville could even face a relegation battle.
The idea that the novice coach could could get to grips with matters at Spain’s fourth biggest club, which has suffered years of turmoil on and off the pitch, looks increasingly like a serious misjudgement from the then high profile TV pundit himself, and from Valencia’s Singapore-based billionaire owner Peter Lim.
Neville had spoken confidently at Saturday’s pre-match news conference.
“I understand that until we get the results we want, these questions will keep coming,” he said.
“Coming in and having lots of victories would have settled everybody down.
“But sometimes when you buy a new house, you have to renovate it a little bit, move the furniture around and orientate yourself.
“I’m optimistic we will get results in the coming weeks, as the work is good from the players and myself.”
Neville did arrive into a difficult position, with Lim and former coach Nuno Espirito Santo very unpopular with Mestalla fans, who questioned their links with Portuguese super-agent Jorge Mendes.
Jesus Garcia Pitarch has returned this month to fill a vacancy as sporting director - a role he held a decade ago when Valencia last won the La Liga title with Rafa Benitez as coach.
Neville has regularly changed his starting team - but without any belief of a new sense of direction.
Centre-back Aymen Abdennour, a Mendes client and target of derision from fans after a string of poor performances, has kept his place.
Young players with links to Mendes, such as Brazilian midfielder Danilo Barbosa and Spanish attacker Santi Mina, have also remained in the XI.
The latest youngster given a chance by Neville against Depor yesterday was Wilfried Zahibo, who was given a first league start.
Holding midfielder Zahibo, 22, was at fault as on-loan Liverpool forward Luis Alberto was able to turn and set up Lucas Perez’s opening goal.
Depor were much the better team, and should really have been out of sight, but some questionable offside decisions and poor finishing kept the score at 1-0.
It remained that way until the 93rd minute, when ex-Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo rose to head in a sensational equaliser.
Neville had pointed out repeatedly pre-game that his side keep showing character to come from behind. But even he knows that scrapping for draws is not good enough.
“Give me some time please,” Neville said on Saturday. “The situation was not great before I came. How a coach can dramatically change things in four weeks, I’m not sure.
“It is a real nonsense that my position is being questioned here.
“It will not stop until I win football matches.”
Next up is Thursday’s Copa second leg at Las Palmas.
Making the last four would be a much-needed boost.
Failure to do so and the calls for Neville to be replaced less than two months after arriving will get louder.
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