The pressure is on. Six games into his debut season as Manchester United's manager, David Moyes is facing tough questions about his team's performance as he undertakes the impossible task of replacing Sir Alex Ferguson.
On the evidence of the season so far—a sample size that is admittedly too small to draw many conclusions—it's unclear whether Moyes has the answers.
United lost again Saturday, falling 2-1 at home to West Bromwich Albion. It was the third defeat of the season, and it was a performance that Moyes admitted was "poor."
Not that we needed him to tell us. Moyes' face has said it all this season.
"It was a poor result and a poor performance," Moyes said, per The Guardian. "We never really got going. We had a lot of the ball in the first half and never made many chances from it."
Morgan Amalfitano fired the visitors into a deserved lead, lifting over United goalkeeper David De Gea in the 54th minute. Wayne Rooney quickly equalised with a free kick, but Saido Berahino, assisted by Amalfitano, scored the winner 10 more minutes later.
Rooney's goal—and his ongoing recent revival—will stand as one of the only bright spots for United, who fell eight points behind early leaders Arsenal and missed a chance to gain ground on rivals Manchester City, who also lost. West Brom, meanwhile, won at Old Trafford for the first time since 1978.
Nearly as historic is the extent of United's early woes. In six matches, the Red Devils have won twice, drawn once and lost three times. United have not started a league campaign so poorly since 1989:
Man United boss David Moyes: "A disappointing performance and a disappointing result. We never really seemed to get up to speed." #MUNWBA— Premier League (@premierleague) September 28, 2013
David Moyes: "The performance went on to be a poor one. I'm concerned because we didn't play well. We can put it right." #MUFC— Howard Nurse (@howardnurse) September 28, 2013
"You're always going to have bad results in football. It is how you deal with them," Moyes said, per BBC Sport. "We will move on and look forward to the next one. There are lots of games here and you get ready for the next one."
The next one is against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday in the UEFA Champions League. Moving away from domestic competition could give Moyes and United a welcome diversion, but another poor result would only bring more pressure.
Among the headaches for Moyes is an ongoing question over who to play in midfield. Japanese playmaker Shinji Kagawa, lately the cause celebre among fans, started but was withdrawn at half-time for the youngster Adnan Januzaj.
More than a month into the season, the formula remains unbalanced, and the midfield remains a mess.
Not even the talismanic Robin van Persie, who led the league with 26 goals last season, could inspire a comeback as a second-half substitute. Instead, Moyes was left to rue the "spark" that has gone missing in his team so often this season.
"We lacked an intensity and spark to our game, and in the end (West Brom) deserved the win," Moyes said, per manutd.com. "I can’t argue with that."
That 1989-90 season, the last time United started a league season so poorly, turned out to be the last time Ferguson faced real pressure on his job. Ferguson, of course, had already spent most of three years in charge.
Only six matches into his tenure, Moyes likely is not truly on the hot seat. But it's equally unlikely that he'll receive as much time to turn things around.