Time to come up with a new line
David Moyes has developed a bad habit.
When United lost to Stoke last weekend, he took to MUTV, (h/t Manutd.com) to bemoan United's lack of good fortune. Whilst it may have been fair to wish that Jonny Evans hadn't got injured in the opening exchanges and that Phil Jones' injury hadn't subsequently forced Michael Carrick into central defence, it was not misfortune alone that meant United did not leave the Britannia with all three points.
Occasionally Moyes has acknowledged that the team's performance has not been good enough to win—as it was not in any of the above listed examples—as the Guardian reported that he did following the Capital One Cup semi-final exit.
Moyes' general reluctance to lay into his team is understandable. In a dressing room full of champions, Moyes is the odd man out.
Criticising players of that calibre is a high-risk strategy. It is not a huge leap of imagination to believe that if he does attack his players, still reigning champions, they may start asking in a more public way, what exactly it is that has changed since last season.
Moyes also knows that taking too much of the responsibility for himself is also a dangerous game to play with the press.
It would not be hard to develop a narrative based around the idea that Moyes is out of his depth at Manchester United, and his methods have only succeeded in stripping confidence and ability from his talented charges.
For Moyes to take ownership of poor performances would exacerbate this problem.
After the Stoke game Moyes said “I don't know what we have to do to win,” per BBC Sport. It was a statement intended to decry the fickle fates, but read out of context it takes on an entirely different aspect.
If Moyes' men lose again to Fulham and the prospect of losing at home to the team at the bottom of the Premier League is something the Moyes era has made at least vaguely realistic, the United manager needs to find a fourth way.
Blaming luck (and referees) has become tiresome and is at least partially inaccurate. Blaming the players is a high-wire act for a manager who got the job on his personal characteristics rather than his CV.
Blaming himself could be fatal for his job.
Manchester United are, in the language of the times, in “crisis.” Whether it is a long-term issue or not remains to be seen. What is certain is that this season appears to be a near write off.
The title is gone, the domestic cups are gone. Whilst it is not impossible for a hugely outmatched team to win the Champions League, United would need something akin to a miracle to defeat Europe's elite and win silverware.
A defeat to Fulham would mean that the only thing United are playing for, qualification to have another go at the Champions League next season, would move yet further out of reach.
If this does happen, Moyes has really only one option, and that is to begin a PR campaign that is all about the future. If he wants to keep the job, he needs to sell the idea that he has a plan and that the plan is not just to knock the ball out wide and hump in crosses.
United fans will stand by David Moyes for a while yet regardless, but it would not hurt for him to make it a little more comfortable to do so.
Of course, United are still favourites to beat Fulham on Sunday. But they will lose again this season, and when they do, it would be very nice not to hear about how unlucky they were.
There comes a point where that is simply not good enough.