RIGHT now it can feel as if fate is standing like a joiner with three nails in its mouth, about to hammer one after the other into David Moyes' Manchester United coffin.
Rumours have bubbled around English football that Moyes will be put out of his misery if United's season does not turn in the next three matches: at home to Olympiakos tonight, away to West Ham on Saturday, and, ominously, at home again to Manchester City on Tuesday.
Moyes is in that horrible, unenviable, excruciating position of arriving at his media conferences knowing any attempt to keep the discussion on the upcoming match, in this case against the Greeks in the last 16 of the Champions League tonight, is futile. It is Moyes himself, not United's games, who is the story yet again in the aftermath of Sunday's emphatic 3-0 home defeat by Liverpool.
He has become used to facing questions about whether he can, or will, survive. "My future has not changed one bit," he said yesterday. "I have a great job. I know exactly the direction I want to go in. The season has not been as good as I had hoped but I have ideas that I will put in place when the time is right.
"We have big plans for years going forward. This is a club that works on a long-term vision, not a short-term one and that is why I was given a six-year contract."
He was entirely comfortable, he said, that the United executive was still behind him, including his predecessor, Sir Alex Ferguson. "I speak with him regularly and when he is at the games," Moyes said of his compatriot. "He has been very supportive. He told me it would be a difficult job before I came in but he and [vice chairman] Ed [Woodward] are very supportive."
Inevitably, those who are of similar mind are decreasing with every poor result, every drab performance, every erosion of their belief in Moyes. In a season of relentless domestic disappointments United's Champions League form had been something to which he could cling, yet three weeks ago they lost 2-0 to Olympiakos in Athens.
It was not a scoreline which would have seemed insurmountable to a United team ahead of a second leg at Old Trafford, but there has been an almost universal foreboding about the prospect of Moyes's side turning the tie around against the team running away with the Greek championship.
"We will try and do that," he said when asked about the infrequency of teams turning around 2-0 goal first-leg deficits in the Champions League. It has happened only five times in the modern era. "It is not something that has happened a lot but it is something we have to make happen. They know they can play better, I don't think any of them are questioning that. But I believe in the players. They agree they have not showed it as often as they would like but I hope they can show it tomorrow night."
Going out of Europe, which seems likely for this beleaguered United side, would remove the last remaining pillar propping up Moyes's season. Privately, United sources have indicated that he will not be dismissed regardless of how the campaign pans out, but there is always the possibility of a momentum gathering which becomes irresistible.
So far supporters have been exactly that: supportive. Moyes made a point of referring to that when he spoke to the players after losing to Liverpool. "The first thing I mentioned to the players was that we need to give something back; me, the team, we need to make sure to give them a night to remember. We will leave nothing behind on the night hopefully and give everything to get through to the next round."
The flak flies at Moyes from every direction. There were reports, denied by United, that he had fallen out with Ryan Giggs. The 40-year-old player/coach was left out of the squad for the Liverpool game and the rumour grew arms and legs.
At the weekend the Everton academy coach Kevin Sheedy, who Moyes had worked with at Goodison, criticised him on Twitter. "All of you out there, Moyes was never interested in our youth team or players," Sheedy said in one tweet. In another, he wrote: "Punt the ball up to [Marouane] Fellaini - great viewing."
Moyes is by no means friendless, though, and nor is he short of respect and admiration. Alan Stubbs was in Scotland yesterday to attend the John Hartson Foundation golf day at The Carrick, Loch Lomond. "David Moyes is a top manager," he said. "People who want to question him are doing it because they don't know what they're talking about.
"He's having a tough time at the moment and he's just got to try and ride this storm. Whenever things like this go wrong it's very easy to point the finger at one person, but there's a squad of 25, 26 people at the club who have to take blame for it as well. It's not just David Moyes' fault. I think it's very unfair.
"But when you are in football your job is to win games of football and that's how you're judged. He's not judged on turning United around he's judged on winning games of football at this moment in time.
"To replace someone like Alex Ferguson is the impossible job. He's just got to keep his head down, hopefully this will turn, bring in new players and hopefully turn this into a David Moyes team.
"It's not that he's done anything wrong. It's the fact he's gone into a club where there's a lot of things needing changing. It's all probably just happened too fast."