Everything we know about football tells us the threat to Louis van Gaal is real. He won't admit it - instead deflecting blame to his players, like he did to Bastian Schweinsteiger on Tuesday - but the Dutchman will fully understand his perilous predicament after Champions League failure.
There's a contract that runs to 2017. And there are reports saying United will honour that contract as they seek out his successor. But this is corporate football ladies and gentleman - a cynical game of shareholder power where fan apathy is almost as loud as the sound of an empty stadium in the Champions League knockout stages.
"Contract, smontract" say the cutthroats in sharp suits. You can buy those things out for less than it costs to buy a Radamel Falcao. Let's face it, United have spent tens of millions on far more wasteful causes than to extricate an unwanted, under-performing manager in recent years. So what if he has a big reputation.
Keeping Van Gaal on the sole premise that continuity is the mother of progress is an easy trap to fall into. United were burned by the David Moyes debacle and long to present themselves as a "project" club with a long-term vision - like Barcelona, Bayern Munich and...yes, it's a truth to be accepted, Manchester City.
Unlike the other clubs mentioned, however, United are nowhere close to achieving on the aim. There's not even a clear direction to follow.
The "project" dream is perpetuated by the clubs we fall in love with. United have delivered it twice themselves, but those heady days feel long removed right now. In today's game the dream makers are elsewhere and United fans are all too aware of the need to stare up at them.
It's hard to imagine a new generation of players or fans being seduced by United of this season as were the teams of 1968 and 1999. In truth it's easier to believe some United fans won over in the last throes of the Ferguson era being turned to support City, Liverpool...or even Leicester.
That's if fans stay within Premier League confines of course. United aren't just competing with English clubs for market share; they're up against the likes of Barca, Bayern and PSG for fan affection. The battle for global dominance is already well under way.
Fortunately for United they had a head start. They were a club smart enough to embrace business opportunities as they dawned and those opportunities have spawned wild riches in sponsorship revenue from all over the world. Grow a big fish, however, and you've got to keep feeding it.
Such a task is not helped by a team that is proving very hard to love this season. If a run of good results doesn't come soon and if Van Gaal can't deliver a trophy in his second campaign, the decision makers will have to act. It's their duty to the shareholders and to the fans. Money is literally riding on the result.
United are a behemoth global brand. They have myriad partners to appease and an aggressive strategy that relies on a football team delivering success and entertainment. The patience found for Sir Alex Ferguson in the mid-to-late 1980s will never be found again at Old Trafford.
The arms race for global dominance is on and United plan to lead it. Their heavily structured corporate operation is perfectly tuned to execute and an estimated 600 million fans are already attached to the the juggernaut, dragging it forward.
But United's ability to pull in more fans cannot be taken for granted. Kids are always going to be attracted to the teams who are winning and the stars who excite them. United are struggling to provide either and that has to be of big concern to the club's ownership.
The facts are undeniable. United have spent most of the season boring their fans to death and arrive in the Christmas period looking no more impressive than the ragged band of easy marks Moyes once sent out in the famous red shirts.
Van Gaal's United are out of the Capital One Cup, out of the Champions League and if they were to somehow win the title (I still think they will) this United team would be the least celebrated team to do so since Sky starting throwing notes at the game in the early 1990s.
That's not to say United's soporific style and stuttering form wouldn't be tolerated if they won the title this season, or even the FA Cup for that matter. The majority of fans would naturally relish such a success, albeit with a certain bitterness attached to the way it was achieved.
Yet there are almost certainly Manchester United fans who don't want their team to win the title this season for that very reason.
What does that tell you about Van Gaal? Something has to change or he has to go.
Read more from Will Tidey