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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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By ESPN Staff

Backing for Johnson after penalty nightmare

Andrew Johnson has won the support of his manager David Moyes and club skipper Phil Neville in the wake of his Everton penalty nightmare.

The England striker missed two spot-kicks - one twice-taken - as the Toffees were held to a 1-1 UEFA Cup draw on Thursday by nine-man Metalist Kharkiv at Goodison Park.

Whether Johnson retains the penalty duties on Sunday at Aston Villa remains to be seen, with boss David Moyes admitting he had not discussed it with his players yet.

Much will depend on whether midfielder Mikel Arteta has recovered from an ankle injury to play, because the Spaniard has been the regular penalty-taker at Goodison Park over the last couple of seasons.

Moyes said: 'I don't know about Mikel yet, I hope he will be OK. If he had been on the pitch I am sure he and Andy would have argued about it.

'But I made the decision on Thursday who should take them, and I decided on Andy, I was more than happy about that decision.

'I have not spoken to Andy yet about what happened, but we will do over the next couple of days. We are not looking back, we will concentrate on Aston Villa and being ready for that.

'I am not that bothered about penalty-kicks, they can be missed. You hope in the main you put them away and in general Andy has done that when he has put them away.

'The first one should have counted in my view, if there was an infringement in the first one so was there in the second, there was encroachment all the time.'

Johnson has not scored for Everton since March, and it is believed he may not have started on Thursday had Arteta been fit, but Moyes said: 'Andy's form has not been a problem. We would like him to get some goals but certainly his form has been fine.

'His work-rate for the team is excellent, like it always is, and I am sure his goals will come.'

Skipper Neville also backed his England squad colleague, saying: 'Andy will be fine and he knows he has got our total support.

'The one thing he showed was that he has got balls. To go up and take three successive penalties takes some nerve.

'There was not a lot wrong with the first one, but the fact that he still wanted the ball in the last minute to take another shows the type of lad he is.

'He is obviously disappointed but we have a big game now this weekend and I am sure he will be ready for that.'