This time last year, Manchester United were 15 points clear at the top of the Premier League table under the guidance of legendary manager, Sir Alex Ferguson.
What a difference a year makes. This season, United lie seventh in the league and eleven points behind Liverpool in the race to secure the final Champions League spot for the competition next season.
Much of the blame for United's lack of form and consistency has been pointed towards manager David Moyes, who took over at the helm at Old Trafford following Ferguson's retirement immediately after his side were confirmed as Premier League champions for the 13th time in May last year.
Some say that the club has lost its fear factor, the never say die attitude that invoked immense pressure on every team the side faced while others claim that the current United squad is inadequate in comparison to the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City.
There have been positives this season for United, however they have been few and far between. The emergence of creative young winger Adnan Januzaj has given the fans hope of a future top star but it's definitely fair to say that the negatives have been far greater this term.
From his very first day on the job, Moyes was under huge pressure, having the unenviable task of emulating a man that had won 13 league titles, two Champions League titles and five FA Cups, the pressure on the former Everton manager from the get go was enormous.
With the club in desperate need for a key figure in midfield, Moyes splashed out more than £27 million to sign Belgian enforcer Marouane Fellaini from his former club Everton.
However the Scotsman was criticised for spending over the odds to get his man on the deadline day of the summer transfer window. Fans and experts believed Fellaini did not possess the attributes required to dominate United's midfield in the way Roy Keane and Paul Scholes had done in years gone by and today they have been proven correct. Fellaini has spent much of his first season at Old Trafford injured and has played just eleven matches thus far for the club.
With United now out of the Premier League title race, out of the FA Cup with a 2-1 defeat to Swansea in the third round and also the League Cup following a penalty shootout loss to Sunderland in the semi final, the Champions League is the only competition United are competing in for silverware.
Again the depth and quality of the squad is called into question. Moyes broke the club's transfer record in January to sign Spanish playmaker Juan Mata from Chelsea for £37 million. A technically gifted player but yet again question marks were raised about the hefty price tag, given that Mata had been a peripheral figure for his former club for much if not all of the current season to that point.
The club were boosted by the return from injury of integral players, Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney who were injured and badly missed for a number key games. However, even with the signing Mata and the return of Rooney and Van Persie, United have struggled for both goals and points, particularly losing to Stoke away before a disappointing home draw with Fulham.
On February 25, United will face Olympiakos in the second round of the Champions League. The Manchester side are at the very least expected to secure the victory over two legs and advance to the quarter finals of the tournament but with the club's form throughout the season thus far, fans expectations will be relatively low and will not count their chickens before they hatch.
There are at least six teams with stronger squads than United still competing in the Champions League this season. Holder Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Paris St. Germain as well as domestic rivals Manchester City and Chelsea can all boast much more sufficient squads than the 1999 and 2008 winners.
This objective of this article does not intend to promote the idea that Manchester United can go all the way to the final in Lisbon in May later this year, it merely suggests that a good run i.e. to the semi final can galvanise the side and for United fans the hope that things under Moyes are about to change and the club can return to former glory in the years to follow.
A win over two legs against Olympiakos and a good draw in the quarter final could be the perfect way for Moyes to soften the blow of what has been by all accounts and by the club's standards a very poor season.
All things considered, the club's performance in the Champions League starting with Olympiakos away on February 25 is a make or break situation for David Moyes.
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