Sir Alex Ferguson sat in the Old Trafford stands on Saturday afternoon and glumly watched on as his former Manchester United side dropped yet more points in a game many people would have expected them to win. Adam Lallana's late equaliser for Southampton piled more pressure on David Moyes, which now leaves his side eight points adrift of table-toppers Arsenal.
Though 30 games are still to be played, who would have thought that United would be having such a slow start to the season? People are now questioning the performance of a Manchester United manager for the first time since the Premier League's inception.
With United seemingly lacking the old Fergie-impact that was ever-present throughout the Scot's tenure, the Premier League is taking full advantage up and down the table. Look at West Brom's shock 2-1 victory at Old Trafford in September - are sides going into games against United without the fear factor Ferguson instilled in his opponents?
Evidently, it's not only Manchester United heading for a period of transition, the entire league is too. Everyone knew the retirement of Sir Alex would mean huge changes for the Premier League, such a huge presence was the former manager. But the shift has been profound. While it may be too early to say for sure at this stage, it appears that David Moyes can't get the same out of this United team that Ferguson could. After all, it is basically the same side apart from the addition of Fellaini and the emergence of Januzaj.
With United apparently going backwards, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Spurs and Liverpool are all making inroads. Looking at United and those clubs' transfer dealings in the summer, there is more evidence of shifting tides. In Fergie's last season, he poached Robin Van Persie from Arsenal for £22.5million, a bargain at the time as his prolific scoring record in his debut season pretty much won United the league. This season, Moyes' big signing was Marouane Fellaini for £5million more than what Van Persie cost Fergie and the big Belgian won't win United a Premier League.
Chelsea, City and Tottenham spent big on multiple players, particularly Spurs forking out over £100million, while Arsenal went for the one marquee signing in Mesut Ozil. Each of those clubs made big additions with the kind of players capable of single-handily turning matches on their heads in one moment. With the lone signing of Fellaini, United don't have that. It raises the question, would Alex Ferguson have watched his biggest rivals make such strong improvements to their squads without making big changes of his own?
Look at Arsenal's signing of Mesut Ozil, a player of enormous quality. Ferguson wouldn't have let a player they could well have done with join a rival in Arsenal. In this transitional period now is the time for the other big clubs to pounce and impose themselves on the league rather than live in the shadow of United, and looking at their starts and signings they can smell the opportunity.
Is Moyes falling behind his rivals?Is Moyes Falling Behind His Rivals?
With Ferguson retired there is room for a new manager to be the leading boss in the league and all eyes are pinned on the most experienced coach currently in the league, Arsene Wenger. He has already staked his claim after Arsenal's impressive start, in no doubt aided by his signing of Ozil and the returning Flamini. He is the obvious man to take over from Ferguson at the top of the managerial tree, but Arsenal's eight-year trophy drought and the return of a certain special one makes things less straight forward.
Jose Mourinho's Chelsea return coinciding with Fergie's retirement emphasises a huge shift in the mentality of both the Blues and United. The influence of the managers on their players is coming to the aid of one side, whilst leaving the other behind. United are now devoid of the 'Fergie-factor' and Chelsea are getting their own boost with Mourinho, something Ryan Bertrand made a point of after their victory over Cardiff.
"It's one of the things that left Chelsea when he left. It was in the first team and it filtered through to the youth-team levels that we never thought about losing. We were Chelsea and we were going to win, no matter how pretty. That's something that's been re-instilled in us now."
Yes, it is still the early days for Manchester United, David Moyes and the Premier League, but early signs are suggesting that there could well be a profound changing of the old guard. One manager will lead their side and take the baton from Fergie and whether it will be Wenger, Mourinho, Pellegrini, AVB, or Brendan Rogers, we can't know. However, the one falling behind in the race is certainly David Moyes.
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