David Moyes is facing a critical battle for his Manchester United future with squad misgivings over the manager's tactical approach and training methods threatening to undermine the ongoing backing from the club's owners, the Glazer family.
With United now having endured eight defeats in 17 games in 2014, the patience shown by the majority of Moyes's players with his tactics and approach to the job is now at breaking point, with Telegraph Sport aware of the concern of squad members over the inability of the manager to arrest the slump.
Despite Manchester City inflicting on United a third humiliating defeat in the space of a month after a 2-0 Champions League humbling against Olympiakos in Athens and the 3-0 defeat against Liverpool at Old Trafford 11 days ago, senior figures at the club remained unmoved on Wednesday in their support for the 50 year-old.
While there are concerns over recent results and Moyes's inability to halt a slide that has left United struggling even to qualify for the Europa League, the Glazers and Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, are understood to be determined to judge the former Everton manager at the end of the season rather than be forced into a decision before the final game of the campaign at Southampton on May 11.
However, the manner of United's capitulation against Liverpool and City has exacerbated concern within the squad that Moyes's methods are flawed and unsuited to the club's attacking traditions. Moyes's perceived cautious approach has been viewed as blunting the team's attacking potential, and although senior players embraced his determination last summer to make training more physically demanding than under Sir Alex Ferguson, it is now regarded as having contributed little of benefit to a team who are in seventh position in the Premier League, 12 points adrift of Champions League qualification.
Having grown accustomed to ball-related training under Ferguson and coaches Rene Meulensteen and Mike Phelan, there is less enthusiasm for Moyes's preference for more structured sessions centred on team shape and organisation and concern has also been expressed about a lack of continuity in team selection - highlighted by the surprise recall of Ryan Giggs to the team against Olympiakos last week and his subsequent absence from the squad in the following games against West Ham United and City.
Robin van Persie's comments to a Dutch television station following the defeat against Olympiakos last month, when the forward claimed that team-mates were "occupying the spaces I want to play in", proved the first public example of Moyes's tactics being questioned by his players. The Dutchman ultimately offered his backing to the manager in a supportive interview in the United programme before the Liverpool defeat, however.
While sources at Old Trafford do not contest the disaffection of some members of Moyes's squad, the view until the defeat against Liverpool was that the majority of those with an axe to grind were players who faced an uncertain future at the club beyond the end of this season.
Exasperation has grown, however, and Moyes is regarded as having few allies in the dressing room as he approaches the final seven league games of the season. But despite the concerns within the squad, Woodward and the Glazers believe that the current problems on the pitch are proof of the need to rebuild the team this summer - a job that they are backing Moyes to undertake.
Moyes has handed Woodward a list of summer transfer targets, including Bayern Munich midfielder Toni Kroos, Southampton defender Luke Shaw and Sporting Lisbon midfielder William Carvalho. He has also identified a number of players he is ready to sell at the end of the season, with Patrice Evra and Javier HernÃ¡ndez both set to be handed the opportunity to follow Nemanja Vidic to Inter Milan this summer. In public, the Scot continues to shield his players from the brunt of criticism, offering a frank insistence following the City defeat that he shouldered responsibility for the team's decline this term, which has left them 26 points worse off than at the same stage of last season. Critical comments by former United midfielder Paul Scholes following the City defeat added to the sense of Moyes's reign unravelling amid growing discord among those connected with the club, however.
The manager will at least be comforted by the group in charge of banners inside Old Trafford insisting that the "Chosen One" banner at the Stretford End - so-called because of Moyes being anointed by Ferguson as his successor - will not be taken down in the wake of calls from supporters for it to be removed. A group of stewards was deployed to prevent supporters removing the banner after the City defeat, but there are no plans to take it down permanently.
Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney has admitted that things must improve.
"I don't know why, but it's not good enough," the United forward said. "We can't lose six homes games in a season and we have to put that right and make this a place which teams fear again. It's probably been the story of our season so far that we've got a couple of good results and then one which sets us back a bit. Tuesday was a bad night for us all but we have to move on. We've got two big games coming up against Bayern Munich but first we have to focus on the Villa game and try to end the season on a positive note."
The Telegraph, London