What Does David Moyes Have to Do to Save His Job at Manchester United?

Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentFebruary 27, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 22: David Moyes of Manchester United looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Manchester United at Selhurst Park on February 22, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

It's testament to how bad things have got for David Moyes that the fact he signed a six-year contract at Manchester United in the summer has become largely irrelevant.

Just nine months ago, it was being held up as a beacon. 

Elsewhere, Jose Mourinho was busy putting his name to a four-year deal at Chelsea. Manuel Pellegrini was agreeing to a three-year contract at Manchester City.

But for United, for Moyes, it was six. It was a statement that United stand by their managers. That they would stand by Moyes, the Chosen One, as they stood by Sir Alex Ferguson.

Having enjoyed the stability that comes with employing the same manager for 26 years, it was proof that United were chasing something similar. A way to distance themselves from the trigger-happy owners at Stamford Bridge and the Etihad Stadium.

But things have changed.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11:  United fans display a banner honouring Manchester United Manager David Moyes during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Swansea City at Old Trafford on January 11, 2014 in Manchester, England.
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The defeat to Olympiacos on Tuesday night that left United on the brink of a humiliating Champions League exit was a new low in an already disastrous season. And that's saying something.

It topped a first home defeat to West Bromwich Albion since 1978. A first home defeat to Newcastle since 1972. A first home defeat to Everton for 21 years and a first league defeat to Stoke for 30 years.

It topped the FA Cup third-round defeat to Swansea. And the Capital One Cup final semi-final defeat to Sunderland.

Jon Super/Associated Press

It wasn't so much the result in Greece that was so shocking but the performance. 

It was so dire that it felt like a tipping point for most right-minded United fans—the point at which those supporters who have insisted Moyes needs time began to think differently.

More than that, watching their team, 2-0 down in the second-half, defend a corner with all 11 players inside their own penalty area was enough to drive some to drink.

The defeat to Olympiacos, and the manner of it, has caused a seismic shift. 

Before then, the general feeling around Old Trafford was that Moyes had at least until the beginning of 2015 to show some improvement.

But that view has started to feel out-dated.

Things have got so bad that results will have to significantly improve between now and the end of the season for Moyes to feel completely safe in his job this summer.

PIRAEUS, GREECE - FEBRUARY 25:  Manchester United manager David Moyes reacts on the touchline during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Olympiacos FC and Manchester United at Karaiskakis Stadium on February 25, 2014 in Piraeus,
Michael Regan/Getty Images

The next three games are crucial. 

If United can beat West Brom and Liverpool, and overturn the two-goal deficit against Olympiacos, the mood will lift.

City at home at the end of March and Everton away in April are two more opportunities for Moyes to show his team are heading in the right direction before the planned summer rebuild.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 19:  Manchester United Manager David Moyes gives instructions to Robin van Persie during a Manchester United training session at Allianz Stadium on July 19, 2013 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

But what if they don't get past Olympiacos? And what if their poor form continues until the end of the season and they finish seventh or even eighth?

Will the board hand £100million to a manager while there are serious doubts hanging over his head? Probably not.

And so for the first time in his short reign, Moyes will live and die by results in the next six weeks rather than the next six years.

If things improve, if United can scrape past Olympiacos and make a fight of finishing fourth, Moyes might remember the dark days of February 2014 with a smile.

It could yet be Ferguson's December 1989. The darkest point before the dawn.

But after defeat to Olympiacos, Moyes is under pressure to show there is light at the end of the tunnel. To show he is the right man to lead United into next season. To show the Chosen One is still the right choice.