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Is it winning at all costs or just the costs that matter?

THE Theatre of Dreams has always been in touch with unalloyed reality.

The nickname for Old Trafford is, of course, a product of a marketing sensibility rather than a spontaneous christening by the supporters.

There was once genuine romance and awful tragedy about United - the latter in the shape of the Munich air disaster almost certainly engendered the former - but Manchester United is undeniably a business. This almost banal statement is not true of every football club, particularly in the Barclays Premier League, where clubs have become the must-have toy for oligarch or sheikh.

The Glazers are different. This may be bad news for United fans craving the extravagant signing, but it may be comforting for David Moyes who is so besieged at United his supporters could be forgiven for digging a moat around him.

United's dramatic comeback against Olympiakos last night was the stuff of a legend that stretches back through Sir Alex Ferguson and on to Sir Matt Busby.

No-one was last night pushing for a peerage for Moyes. Instead, there has been an unrelenting, perhaps deliberate, seeping of information from "sources within the club" in the wake of United's capitulation to Liverpool.

These been of claims of rows with Ryan Giggs, mutual disaffection with Robin van Persie and increasing scepticism from the boardroom. These sources have not been granted names. The anonymity has not diluted the extent of the coverage, however.

Moyes has variously been given three matches/a month/until the end of the season to save his job.

The case against him is well-rehearsed. United lag in the league and will only be in next year's Champions League if they win this one. And the bookies will provide a taxi if you want to place that bet at your local shop despite the marvellous excitement of last night's recovery.

United, too, have departed both domestic cups and have been thrashed by Liverpool and Manchester City, their two biggest rivals. Yet the business case for Moyes remains strong. And the Glazers are businessmen running a club as a business. The evidence for this lies in the irrefutable currency of figures.

The American owners of United completed their leveraged buyout in 2005 for £790m. "Leveraged" means buying with other people's money with the assets of the acquired business providing security. In football terms, the Glazers have had a result. They have extracted more than £500m from the club in interest, fees, bank charges and debt repayments.

And the cash cow has regularly turned up for milking, led into the county house by Sir Alex Ferguson who spectacularly in the last decade of his reign turned football economics on its head.

There is a truth - so solid that one can take it to the bank - that performance in the league is directly linked to salaries paid to players.

Yet Ferguson provided the most divine alchemy for the Glazers.

He spent 51% of turnover on wages in 2012. Only Norwich were more parsimonious in terms of ratio. Yet United kept on winning.

The results on the balance sheet were similarly stunning. United's annual revenues are nudging towards £500m, comfortably overshadowing the debt.

The absence of Champions League football, the prospect of a trophy-free season or seasons domestically would thus not signal the financial meltdown so trumpeted by those who use this scenario to predict Moyes' demise.

The former Everton manager has been uncertain in the transfer market, possibly not helped by a novice chief executive at this level in Ed Woodward. The two major players he has signed - Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata - can be charitably be described as yet to make an impact.

He was also too hasty in discarding Ferguson's backroom staff. This left him exposed to the chill wind of ill fortune and it has duly blown. It may have taken United off course but it need not lead to the sinking of Moyes.

He is visibly suffering from the strain, with his features becoming ever more gaunt but this is understandable and if he can endure he may yet take the club forward.

Bluntly, there will be no clamour among the Glazer family to sack Moyes. The father of the dynasty, Malcolm, has suffered strokes and has left the running of the business to his sons: Joel, Bryan and Avram. They love soccer, as they call it, but they have a refined sense of business imperatives, too.

The Glazers may have the dissenters whispering in their ears but they know that another manager would cost them both in terms of paying up the contracts of the Moyes and his staff and in enhanced wages for the likes of Louis van Gaal, head coach of the Netherlands, or Diego Simeone of Atletico Madrid. And neither would be an entirely safe investment and neither will be available until next season.

The American sports channel ESPN has reported that "key boardroom members have turned against Moyes" and that "the Glazer family owners are now more open to the idea of a change of manager".

However, that is far from donning the black cap and sentencing Moyes, particularly when the owners' ambition for the club might not match the majority of the audience at the Theatre of Dreams.

The Financial Times recently described those at the helm of United thus: "The Glazers represent a new kind of football club owner to have emerged in recent years: the profit-driven investor, usually American." It added: "They seek to earn money from their clubs rather than winning at costs."

This stark reality that the Glazers are interested in continued, reliable profit that can be attained under a moderately successful manager may provide a sleepless night for those who inhabit the Theatre of Dreams.

It could, though, ensure a happier ending than most envisage for David Moyes.

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