Sunderland boss David Moyes warns fans of another relegation fight after Middlesbrough loss
Sunderland 1-2 Middlesbrough
David Moyes admitted Sunderland supporters are right to fear a relegation battle this season after Cristhian Stuani's double secured a Wear-Tees derby victory for newly-promoted Middlesbrough at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland dropped into the bottom three with no points after suffering their second successive defeat this season and face Southampton at St Mary's next weekend following a League Cup tie at home to Shrewsbury Town on Wednesday.
But after becoming perennial relegation strugglers under a succession of managers in recent seasons, former Everton and Manchester United manager Moyes concedes that the same fate awaits his team this campaign.
"(The fans are) probably right," Moyes said. "It's been the same for last few years, I think it will be again. You can't argue with the facts.
"People are hoping for it to dramatically change, but it can't.
"We hope that things will improve. Defensively, we have a young right-back and centre-half, but they need a lot of work and schooling.
"This is the group of players at the moment, but we have two or three who will come back (from injury) and we will add to it and improve it.
"We have to get the balance right between young and experience and get the right values in the transfer market.
"But it's not that easy. The prices are a bit more than they have been in the past."
Stuani's first-half goals left Sunderland trailing 2-0 at half-time - a scoreline Moyes believed did not reflect the balance of play.
"If we had gone in 1-0 down at half-time, I still would have felt slightly hard done by," Moyes said. "So to come in 2-0 down made us flat and made it difficult.
"But the attitude of the young players was great - (Lynden) Gooch, (Duncan) Watmore and Adnan Januzaj, who was really taking people on.
"It was hard to take, though. We played quite well for 30 minutes, but we didn't defend well enough."
Moyes, meanwhile, revealed that captain John O'Shea faces tests after limping out with a first-half groin injury.
"The O'Shea change came at the worst time for us," he said. "It looks like he has popped his groin."
Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka insisted the key factor was the result, rather than its significance.
"The most important thing as always is the points," Karanka said. "It's always important to win, especially in a derby and for our crowd who have been waiting for this moment for a long time, so I'm pleased for the players and the crowd.
"The players showed we are ready for the season. We are playing well, compact and with intensity so it was important to get points as quickly as possible."
Sunderland: Mannone, van Aanholt, Djiliobodji, O'Shea (Pienaar, 37 mins), McNair (Lens, 46 mins), Love, Rodwell, Gooch, Watmore (Asoro, 81 mins), Januzaj, Defoe. Unused subs: Pickford, Khazri, T Robson, J Robson.
Middlesbrough: Guzan, Nsue (Ayala, 82 mins), Barragan, Gibson, Friend, Clayton, Forshaw, Stuani, Ramirez (Adomah, 59 mins), Downing, Negredo (Nugent, 90 mins). Unused subs: Dimi, Baptiste, De Sart, Fischer.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (Leeds)
Man of the match: Cristhian Stuani
Match rating: 7/10