Eight games gone and Manchester United find themselves down in eighth position, eight points behind league-leaders Arsenal at the top of the Premier League table.
Although it's still early in the season, there must be real concern at Old Trafford that they might not secure a top-four finish - let alone successfully defend their title.
Failure to book their place in next season's Champions League group stages would be catastrophic for the Red Devils - and here's why...
Manchester United's huge debt means that qualification for the Champions League group stages is an absolute must.
Debt repayments alone cost the Red Devils a fortune every season - and in order to keep on top of those payments, the Glazer family need their club to be competing in Europe's premier club competition.
Clubs earn millions simply by reaching the Champions League group stages, and then build up a substantial amount of prize money by securing victories and reaching the latter stages of the competition.
The Europa League pales in comparison, so failure to secure a top-four finish would be a financial disaster for the reigning Premier League champions.
Holding onto star players
The world's best players want to be playing Champions League football - and Manchester United have some of the world's best players.
Failure to secure a top-four finish would inevitably disillusion the club's big names. The prospect of playing second-rate European teams in the Europa League every Thursday night will not appeal.
With a handful of United's star players approaching the end of their current contracts, it could not be a worse year for the Red Devils to drop out of the top four.
Signing new players
Again, the world's best players want to be playing in the Champions League, and Manchester United will have no luck in the transfer market if they're a team competing in the Europa League - despite the club's prestige.
David Moyes insists that Manchester United are always keen to sign the world's best players - but he can forget that if he fails to secure a top-four finish in his debut season at Old Trafford.
Prove Moyes was the right man for the job
Manchester United put all their faith in David Moyes this summer. A six-year contract was a major statement of intent.
United fans accepted that this was always going to be a transitional season, but a top-four finish was the absolute bare minimum expected of Moyes in his first season with the reigning champions.
Anything less and fans will have good reason to call for the manager's head - if United haven't already acted by that point.
Avoid a potential downwards spiral
A combination of all the aforementioned consequences of failing to secure Champions League football would leave Manchester United at the start of a dangerous downwards spiral.
It's not just the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City getting stronger and stronger - it's also teams like Tottenham, Liverpool, Everton and even Southampton.
And that's just the Premier League. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and others also show no signs of slowing down - and all will continue to become much stronger than United if they're floundering in the Europa League.
It's imperative that United keep themselves in the Champions League - and it's about time Moyes stopped taking that for granted.
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