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Back-to-back Premier League defeats at Old Trafford for Moyes' men mean bookmakers are now offering odds-against quotes on a top-four finish in the Premier League

Betting Special
By Jim Knight

Despite question marks over his Champions League management credentials after being appointed Sir Alex Ferguson's successor, David Moyes has enjoyed some of the best results of his fledgling Manchester United career in the competition.

Tuesday night's clash with Shakhtar Donetsk will once again afford Moyes and his Manchester United squad the chance to lift the substantial pressure that is building as a result of their worrying Premier League results.

Although, even a convincing win on home soil will struggle to shake the increasing feeling that one of England's football superpowers may be about to fall from grace.

Defeats to Newcastle and Moyes' former club Everton in the last week mean United now sit in ninth position, 13 points adrift of leaders Arsenal and, crucially, seven points behind the last Champions League place, currently occupied by their city rivals.

Coral now make United 6/4 (2.50) to finish inside the top four, a price that began the season around 1/10 (1.10) which demonstrates how much of a surprise this has been to the vast majority, despite lingering doubts from some regarding Moyes' appointment.

A season without Champions League football would have been unthinkable in recent years under Ferguson's stewardship but that is the very real prospect that the club face as the Moyes era takes full effect. Old Trafford has become a setting for disappointment and despair, not delight and celebration.

TOUGH AT THE TOP
United's struggles this season
Oct 1
Liverpool (A) 2-0
Oct 22
Manchester City (H) 1-4
Oct 29
West Brom (H) 1-2
Dec 4
Everton (H) 0-1
Dec 7
Newcastle (H) 0-1
That stark realisation only serves to reinforce the importance of the former United boss and just how much he was able to do with the almost identical set of players in the last campaign.

The Premier League title odds don't lie. Arsenal (2/1) have been the trailblazers of the season so far and, although the well-fancied Chelsea (4/1) and favourites Manchester City (7/4) have failed to mount serious title challenges as of yet, there is still a feeling that they will; that their time will come. United (33/1) are unable to even get on terms with them, let alone compete in the same arena.

United may well pick up in 2014, a the January transfer window is the ideal opportunity for Moyes to stamp his authority on a squadthat has seen very little change recently - but it may well be too late by then.

Although Moyes is still well fancied to remain in place until the end of the season (1/3 with Paddy Power), the fact that a 2/1 (3.0) quote from the same firm about the alternative goes some distance towards explaining how difficult the season at Old Trafford has been so far.

Infrequent glimpses of the United of old have all to often been quickly forgotten thanks to lacklustre performances against opposition that the club had become increasingly familiar with beating in recent seasons, teams that were the bread and butter to United of old, who were relentless in their pursuit of more silverware and record-breaking success.

A six-year contract for Moyes upon his arrival and a glowing endorsement from the outgoing Ferguson was a sign of intent from the club.

A club that have dominated the Premier League era like no other and despite changes in the footballing landscape around them, a club that were still competitive year after year, the mainstay at the top end of the Premier League.

It was a statement that they were fully behind the Scot, who would follow in Ferguson's almost insurmountable footsteps, but BetVictor make Moyes a 7/1 (8.0) chance to see out his full tenure at Old Trafford, offering just 1/12 (1.08) about him departing before that.

Although Moyes may have been hindered by others at the club, a disastrous summer transfer campaign and the heavy weight of expectation, ultimately, he is the one who will be held accountable for the success or failure of United.

While the definition of what is deemed a successful season post-Ferguson may be up for debate, for a club who continue to service around £360million (€430) of debt, qualification for Europe's premier club competition must be a top priority and the odds certainly suggest Moyes may struggle to keep United within that elite group this season.

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Jim Knight is Chief Betting Editor at Goal.com and has been tipping football games since he was old enough to place a bet. He is a Leicester City fan, writer and member of the We Are Going Up Podcast

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