Jonny Evans has admitted there is a crisis of confidence in the Manchester United camp.
Saturday’s shattering 1-0 home defeat by Newcastle condemned United to successive Old Trafford reverses in the Premier League for the first time since 2002.
David Moyes’ side have now taken just two points from their last four games, remain in ninth spot in the table and ended Saturday seven points off the Champions League places.
Startlingly, they are only nine above the drop zone, even if a repeat of their relegation in 1974 is impossible to imagine, no matter how dark the present situation appears to be.
Yet Evans concedes confidence has been affected by the recent downturn in fortunes, which is hampering how the United players go about their business.
“Obviously the lads have lost a bit of confidence in their play,” said Evans.
“You can tell that with the possession and creativity.
“Players maybe are not playing how they naturally would. That happens when your confidence drops.”
Evans is finding it difficult to explain precisely what is going wrong.
Small details, such as a handball on the line by Vurnon Anita that was not spotted by referee Andre Marriner when the scores were still level, are evidently going against the Red Devils.
However, there was none of the anticipated urgency in the hunt for an equaliser that supporters have come to expect.
Indeed, following Yohan Cabaye’s second-half winner, after which there was still half an hour left, it is hard to recall any concerted pressure on the visitors’ goal.
“Usually whenever we’re chasing a goal at Old Trafford, especially at the Stretford End, we put teams under an enormous amount of pressure,” said Evans.
“But with the lack of confidence and creativity we didn’t produce that.
“It is hard to put your finger on it.
“If you look back at the game, we lacked a bit of sharpness in our passing. We were sloppy in possession which allowed Newcastle to get control of the game.
“When we were going forward, the lack of sharpness in our passing stopped us from creating much up front.”
Meanwhile, Former Manchester United goalkeeper Alex Stepney believes the Red Devils could be out of the title race following their fifth Barclays Premier League defeat of the season.
Asked if United were now out of the running for the title, Stepney told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek: “I would say yes, but I don’t think they’re out of the top four - but funnier things have happened.”
United fell to three league defeats in September - away to rivals Liverpool and neighbours City, before a shock 2-1 loss at home to West Brom - but until they were beaten by Everton on Wednesday night they had enjoyed an unbeaten run of 12 matches in all competitions.
Stepney, who made 433 league appearances for United between 1966-1978, hopes his former side can get back to winning ways after collecting just two points from their last four league games.
He added: “It’s just one of those things, it’s embarrassing that we can’t score goals, we’ve hit the post and hit the bar and had it knocked off the line and it’s one of those things.”