OLD TRAFFORD, MANCHESTER—One step forward. Two back.
Hope after victory over Crystal Palace. Disaster against Olympiacos in the Champions League.
The horrendous performance against Olympiacos in Greece shifted the focus for the first time onto David Moyes' short-term results.
But the 3-0 defeat to Liverpool was a dreadful way for the United manager to start 10 days that might yet shape his time at Old Trafford.
The fans pleading patience with Sir Alex Ferguson's replacement have become quieter and quieter as United have lurched from crisis to crisis.
And defeat at home to Liverpool, especially the manner of it, was another.
Olympiacos and Manchester City will visit Old Trafford in the next fortnight. And Moyes is desperately searching for something positive to give the supporters.
Understandably, the songs in support of the manager have grown less and less frequent.
There is an urban myth that if you throw a frog into boiling water, it will jump out immediately. But if you put the frog in cold water and boil it slowly, it will sit there until it cooks.
The United board knew there would be a period of transition under the new manager. But they won't have contemplated it getting this dire. This hot.
The temperature has steadily increased around United and Moyes as the season has gone on. And now, in real danger of missing out on a place in next season's Champions League, they've found themselves in boiling water.
Month after month, the situation has slowly deteriorated. And without real improvement, the board will have to be prepared to react or, like the frog, risk boiling to death.
Squeezing past Olympiacos on Wednesday night will help lift the mood. But 2-0 down from the first-leg, there's no guarantee.
And there was nothing to suggest from the performance against Liverpool that they are capable of beating the Greek champions by three clear goals.
The same goes for the Manchester derby with City on March 25.
It's a chance for Moyes to show that his United team are going in the right direction. But there is no evidence to hint that a display of real quality and intent is coming—certainly not one good enough to beat City.
From having the final few games to save United's season, Moyes is entering territory where he needs results in the short-term to save his job.
It is unlikely Moyes will lose his job before the end of the season. But the board will no doubt have some serious questions in the summer before they agree to fund his transfer plans.
There are blips, and then there's taking over the champions and finishing seventh.
The only way Moyes can feel completely safe in his job this summer is by showing signs that his team are going in the right direction.
Games against Olympiacos and City at Old Trafford are two glorious opportunities. But so far, there has been very little to suggest he can take them.
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