The reigning Premier League champions need to regain the confidence and swagger that once made them an irresistible force, else they will fail to even make the Champions League
Shocking, unacceptable, mediocre.
These are just some of the (less explicit) terms describing Manchester United these days, as the club faces one of its worst crises in recent weeks.
After an especially tough start to the season where United faced title contenders Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool in the first five games of the season, they seemed to have steadied the ship.
However, alarm bells started ringing when they lost their first home game of the season to West Bromwich Albion in late September.
They then recovered well to go on a 12-game unbeaten run in all competitions, beating league leaders Arsenal 1-0 and then pulling off that famous 5-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen in the process.
But before anyone had time to get carried away, consecutive 1-0 home losses against Everton and Newcastle raised fresh doubts over their title credentials. Despite six straight wins after that, their recent trilogy of 2-1 defeats in the Premier League, FA Cup and Capital One Cup against Tottenham, Swansea City and Sunderland respectively have pushed United to an all-time low.
It must be tough for Manchester United supporters this season, who can only look on as their once dominant team slowly fades away.
It seems that teams know United are there for the taking nowadays. Despite dominating matches, the reigning champions have struggled to create openings and clear-cut chances. Teams will contain the tame pressure from United before hitting them with a sucker punch, forcing the Red Devils to try and chase the game - and fail to do so.
By and large, this has been the pattern in the recent defeats against Tottenham, Swansea and Sunderland.
As Moyes has lamented, luck has had a part to play in all this; and rightly so. When things are not going your way, they really do so in the cruelest of ways.
United were denied a penalty against Spurs, had Fabio harshly sent off against Swansea, which turned the game on its head, and they conceded a dubious penalty against Sunderland after Adam Johnson tumbled over in the penalty box.
Even with all the luck, plenty has been said about the cracks within the team, even if this was the same bunch of players who won the title by 11 points last season.
Winning a record 20th Premier League title did not mask the fact that the team relied too heavily on Robin van Persie’s goals and was in need of reinforcements.
Still, despite the inadequacies, the team last season knew how to play the Sir Alex Ferguson way, i.e. play to win.
Moyes took a team that knows how to win and now, somehow, that is something they are finding increasingly difficult to do.
Yes, playing the blaming game would be the easy thing to do: be it Moyes for failing to properly manage his team, the coaching staff for their supposed extreme training regimes, the players for their loss of form and dedication, or even the management for failing to acquire decent transfer signings over the summer (and maybe even in January).
All are valid points, and all should be equally responsible. But pointing the finger at a specific party will not solve United’s current woes.
The worst thing that can happen now is if the players turn on each other or fail to heed the managerial direction of Moyes.
The Red Devils are only five points away from fourth place, assuming the title is out of reach with Arsenal 11 points ahead. They are set to face a very winnable tie against Olympiakos in the second round of the Champions League. They also still have a second bite of the cherry against Sunderland in the Capital One Cup.
They have every chance of getting their season back on track, but they need to do a lot of soul searching. They have to stay united as a team and regain that confidence and swagger that once made them world-beaters.
Every transition takes time, but for United’s sake the sooner they get it sorted out, the better.