Juan Mata is surely one of Manchester United's best ever signings. But what must he be thinking, just two games into his career at Old Trafford?
United's supporters are notoriously loyal and there are many who still believe the new manager should be given his chance to take the club into its next successful era. Because make no mistake United will be successful again - and sooner than some people think.
It is entirely predictable that Chelsea and City fans think United can be knocked off their global perch but that fails to understand the universal affection for one of the world's four biggest clubs. Tradition and what the club stands for count for 90% of long term support.
Can Moyes survive?
But speaking privately most of those same supporters have serious doubts whether David Moyes can turn round United's astonishing slump in form. Not surprisingly he would not have been first choice to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson anyhow.
Jose Mourinho would have been a popular appointment. He may play pragmatic football, but like Sir Alex, he is a proven winner.
Moyes is not.
Jurgen Klopp, Carlo Ancelotti or Guus Hiddink would surely not be presiding over a crumbling mess of form and confidence?
Even Sir Alex must be questioning his own judgement by now. The shaking head of Sir Bobby Charlton after the Sunderland first leg Cup defeat spoke volumes for the creeping doubt that must be pervading the United Board.
Credit to the Glazers for once again pledging limitless financial support for making United great again, but those same doubting supporters must be wondering if Moyes is the right man to trust with such wealth.
And the evidence was right there on Saturday. A new £37 million player to excite the players and fans alike and yet the same abject performance we have seen all season.
It is entirely fair to ask whether Moyes can actually motivate his players. Seniors like Michael Carrick have nobly said they must take responsibility, but the team looks lost and lacking in ideas, especially when they go behind.
As a season ticket holder I've lost count of the number of times I've sat at " fortress" Old Trafford this season wondering where on earth a goal was going to come from.
Bad luck and injuries
After the Stoke match, Moyes once again bemoaned the team's bad luck. Indeed he had a fair point, as yet another deflected goal put United behind against the run of play and they lost both starting centre-backs to injury.
And yes, things don't seem to have entirely gone United's way, like when Howard Webb played on after Hugo Lloris's reckless challenge on Ashley Young that should have seen a red card and equaliser that could have set up a vital win over Spurs.
But in all walks of life great people and great teams make their own luck. City look organised, dominant and massively confident. They are scoring goals for fun and will surely win the League?
Chelsea look like United last season: tough to beat; grinding out results against the odds; well drilled and organised, they will push City close, as Monday showed.
Meanwhile United look like a mid-table team. Able only to beat the teams below them, they are a poor imitation of Everton last season. Should we be surprised?
United's track of points indeed closely tracks Everton's progress last season, but now they have changed gear under Roberto Martinez..
Many people have admired what Moyes has done with limited resources at Goodison Park, but is that what United needed? Surely they really needed the flair and organisation of a Diego Simeone who, also on limited resources, has driven Atletico Madrid to the top of La Liga, playing exciting expressive football?
Just like United used to play.
Moyes is said to be a student of footballing tactics, with a particular interest in how the top German teams play. The latter seem able to combine Latin flair with teutonic organisation. If Moyes could do that he would make United great again.
But he doesn't seem to know what to do.
It is deeply worrying that, after 37 first class matches, he could still say after the Stoke match "I don't know what we have to do to win" when interviewed by Sky Sports.
Let's start with the fundamental problem: United seem unable to come back from conceding the first goal, which they have already done 14 times this season, losing 10 of those and winning only three.
However when United score first, they invariably win. It is that simple.
With pretty much the same squad (less Fellaini and Mata) United scored 86 goals in the Premier League last season, at an average of 2.3 per game. City scored just 66.
Already this season City have scored 68 goals with United just 39. How can that be?
Moyes may rue bad luck and keep asserting that the team is playing well but that frankly does not stand up because other teams now see United as beatable and the two main reasons are: the defence is worse; and the attack is largely inept.
So then Moyes might point to Van Persie being an almost ever-present last season while missing for much of this term. That only goes so far, because United are playing predictable football and are thereby easier to beat.
That is as much as anything down to tactical naivety. Never was this more true than on Sunday when Phil Jones was injured.
The obvious change was surely Darren Fletcher into midfield as Carrick had to drop back into central defence. Instead Moyes brought on Welbeck and dropped Rooney into midfield.
Result, when the crosses rained in there was nobody in the box where United's talisman would have been. It also showed up that Welbeck and Hernandez are frankly not 90 minute Premier League strikers, unlike Negredo and Dzeko at City.
Earlier in the season it was unsettling to hear Moyes often referring in his press conferences to Manchester United as "they". He may have stopped doing that but he is still too negative in his messages. Frankly, after adding Mata and still losing to Stoke, his mantra "we'll get it right" sounds empty compared to "I don't know what we have to do to win."
Also last Autumn as things were going wrong he would draw attention to it being pretty much the same squad as last season. Give the dramatic collapse in performance, especially in defence, this was unwise.
Why, because it points the finger of blame squarely at the manager and coaching changes.
Rene Meulenstein may have declined Moyes' offer to stay but why on earth do United need five first team coaches (Round, Lumsden, Neville, Giggs and Moyes himself)? No wonder the players seem confused.
And what exactly do Steve Round and especially Jimmy Lumsden bring to the table, given that several United players are playing worse than under Meulenstein; and the injury record seems even worse?
What needs to happen?
Sir Alex Ferguson would lose a lot of face if Moyes was sacked, which might be the one reason he will survive, but every match is crucial now.
With Fulham so abject, however, it may just come down to Sunday's match.
If United lose, the knives will be out for Moyes, but if they win and go on to win the next eight (before they face a rampant City at home), Moyes will be feted. Why? Because as well as beating Arsenal and Liverpool, United will have qualified for the last eight of the Champions League and could well be fourth in the table.
Try telling the Glazers and Ed Woodward that Champions League qualification isn't crucial this season. It is not just about the money. While Moyes is correct that United will always be a draw for some players, how many are going to come to Old Trafford to play for an unproven manager in the Europa League?
So whatever the public protestations by Ferguson that United will not follow the route that other clubs have done in dismissing an under-performing manager, surely a back-up plan is in place?
Moyes is too proud a man to resign, but Antonio Conte, Jurgen Klopp or Guus Hiddink could surely turn round United's fortunes "on a sixpence"?
So why not now?
If United get a result in their next five matches (including Arsenal away) Moyes is likely to survive at least until the end of the season.
But they look a pale shadow of themselves and Moyes looks lost as to how to turn things round. Eventually it will simply come down to the senior players, but he simply must play United's best available 11 until things look more secure.
That means: De Gea; Smalling; Ferdinand; Vidic; Evra; Carrick; Fletcher; Mata; Rooney; Januzaj; Van Persie on Sunday.
De Gea; Smalling; Evans; Vidic; Evra; Carrick; Jones; Mata; Rooney; Januzaj; Van Persie when everyone is fit.
But whatever happens, somebody has to go at the end of the season? If Moyes is to survive then surely his two trusted coaches must go?
Jimmy Lumsden appears to be an aging dinosaur in an era of "tiki taka football" and sports science. Is he the reason why Van Persie has been so injured this season, due to over-training?
And frankly, Steve Round hardly seems to have transformed United. He may be one of a new breed of coaches but surely if Meulenstein fails to survive at Fulham he should be reinstated as first team coach at Old Trafford.
He transformed United's Academy after his 2001 appointment and, after he succeeded Carlos Queiroz as first team coach in 2007, United won 13 trophies in just six seasons.
Bad times, good times
This is a bad time to be a United supporter. From expecting to win every match (especially at home), to dreading losing every match, has been a painfully short journey.
But if United reach fourth place in the Premier League and acquit themselves well in the Champions League it will be a satisfactory season.
While the alternative doesn't bear thinking about it will surely result in more eager anticipation than for years this summer?
United have already landed one world class player against the odds and, whether or not Moyes survives, surely several more will arrive by next season.
With several youngsters also vying for first team places and trying to second-guess who will stay, these are still going to be exciting times ahead for the patient United supporter.
For the Glazers and the United board it is truly time to make a statement that United are the biggest club in the world?
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