The clock is already ticking for David Moyes at Manchester United

Seven months after succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson, David Moyes is already on borrowed time at Manchester United.

For a brief period several years ago, Celtic fans would unfurl a banner before Old Firm clashes as a stark reminder to their Rangers counterparts of Jock Stein's enduring legacy.

A silhouette of the European Cup stood adjacent to an image of the late Scotland manager, accompanied by the phrase 'Is it cold in his shadow?' That rhetoric offers little succour to Parkhead alumni David Moyes as he fails to stem the tide at Manchester United.

Succeeding a man equal in both stature and continental pedigree to Stein would invariably make for a difficult first season but the reigning Premier League champions bear litle resemblance to Sir Alex Ferguson's title-winning charges of just nine months ago.

Moyes was supposed to be the chosen one, hand-picked by Ferguson to continue the United dynasty into the ether. Already out of two major cup competitions and destined to be a third after their Champions League defeat to Olympiakos, a managed decline appears more likely.

From the erosion of Old Trafford's fortress by the likes of West Brom, Newcastle and latterly Fulham to the failed attempt to sign Ander Herrera last summer, the narrative for Moyes' debut campaign continues to prove one of unmitigated farce and underwhelm.

Ed Woodward, the man charged with helping Moyes secure the game's elite names, has done little to ease matters. Doubts over the executive vice chairman's suitability to replace esteemed former chief executive David Gill, now on UEFA's executive committee, refuse to dissipiate anytime soon.

The shenanigans of Herrara's botched signing were merely the tip of the iceberg for United's transfer dealings last summer. After Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas both turned them down, Marouane Fellaini was more parting gift to Everton, at £27 million, than a face-saving capture.

Attempts to rectify the problem have been equally cosmetic. Wayne Rooney's new £300,000-per-week deal will prove a very expensive middle finger to Chelsea's ambition of luring him while Juan Mata's move merely solved Jose Mourinho's problem with his Stamford Bridge outcast for an equally hefty premium.

During his time at Everton, Moyes gained widespread recognition for bridging the gap with the Premier League's higher echelons, but faltering to sixth, 15 points adrift of the summit after assuming control of United in a winning position, has seriously reversed that trend.

Recently deposed Fulham boss Rene Meulensteen, whose coaching methods are still highly regarded by United players, could provide some redemption by working alongside Moyes, which would restore some much-needed confidence in the squad and Robin van Persie.

That, however, would require the 50-year-old to compromise his morals by turning to a member of Ferguson's old guard - something he is highly unlikely to be willing to entertain.

Ferguson himself dealt Moyes a particularly poor hand when handing over the reins. United won last season's title at a canter but largely on their manager's self-belief. The cracks are already showing in midfield, as both Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley demonstrated against Olympiakos.

The Old Trafford crowd were forewarned of potentially lean times ahead when addressed them for the final time last May. "Your job now is to stand by our new manager. That is important", the legendary Scot told them. Few could have anticipated anything on this scale.

Time will tell whether the Glazer family back the judgement of the man that rallied to their defence whenever their debt-laden ownership was questioned or consign Moyes to the annals of infamy alongside Frank O'Farrell, who failed to assume the mantle after succeeding Sir Matt Busby.

Moyes is no stranger to adversity - he took over an Everton side hovering above the relegation places by the sole virtue of goal difference - but time is something he will not be afforded now. With a summer of significant rebuilding ahead, the clock is already ticking.

image: © Jon Candy

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