One home defeat leads to two leads to three. Newcastle will have gone to Old Trafford on Saturday with a totally different mindset to previous seasons, sensing a growing vulnerability in David Moyes’s team. The rub of the green means goals are disallowed when once they would have been awarded.
Every manager of a side fighting relegation talks about the crucial decisions going against them, and that is where United find themselves. The crowd gets ever more anxious, which translates itself to the players, and the spiral continues. The swathes of empty seats before the final whistle on Saturday was not just a comment on the impotence of the team, but the unwillingness of the fans to help them out of the descent. A diet of success leads to bloated ambitions and expectations.
Moyes talks of still winning the title, but how many of that United side would Arsenal, Liverpool or even Chelsea leap at the chance of buying? Where is the Ramsey, Suarez or Hazard to light the fire?
So in the absence of a current superstar, it is now about the collective. The United manager has to maintain his positivity and banish the hangdog look that is engulfing him. He needs to talk about enjoyment, the present not the past, and take some calculated risks to try to engender a shift in that momentum.
The next few weeks are less a test of Moyes’s football pedigree, more an examination of his ability to manage people on and off the field. He needs to look no further than the Australian cricket team to realise how quickly sunshine can follow the rain.