Ron Atkinson has warned David Moyes there is no such thing as a transitional period at Manchester United.
Atkinson, who emphasised his belief Moyes is the right man to succeed Alex Ferguson, took issue with the Scot's assessment of the situation, both before and after United's 1-0 home defeat by Newcastle on Saturday.
As someone who spent five years at Old Trafford before his dismissal in 1986 paved the way for the Ferguson era, Atkinson is acutely aware of the expectations around the club, and transition is not part of the plan.
"I don't think United can have a transitional period," he told MUTV.
"You don't hear of Barcelona or Real Madrid having transitional periods.
"What David probably means is that there has to be an evolution. They need two or three new players. They are not good enough in certain areas.
"It might take a little bit longer than he thought for those types of players to come in but I don't think you can have a transitional period at Manchester United."
The soul-searching after this latest reverse will be deep.
Statistics are damning. Ninth in the table almost halfway through the season, three home defeats and five in all. Back-to-back reverses at Old Trafford for the first time since 2002, and just eight goals scored in front of their own fans.
In general terms, it is as bad as that 1989-90 campaign which included the 'Ta-ra Fergie' banner and ended with the club finishing 13th.
Yet it is the unquantifiable aspects of the slump that is causing most concern.
It is understood that there is bewilderment around the dressing room at the lack of fight being shown.
Instead of the expected cavalry charge in search of an equaliser following Yohan Cabaye's 61st-minute goal, United surrendered in alarming fashion, barely creating a chance of note.
In addition, there is an acceptance that the absence of Ferguson from the dug-out is having an effect.
Whereas in the past, naked fear of what may lie in store for the players once they got inside the dressing room drove them on in times of trouble, it evidently no longer exists.
There is no blame being attached to Moyes for this, more a troubling inability to find a solution.
Added to that is the inevitable negative chatter that attaches itself to any club in the throes of what seems to be a crisis - Robin van Persie's situation has now become the subject of worldwide news, with media in Barcelona reporting interest from the Catalan giants in acquiring the striker in next month's transfer window, even though privately the player has insisted he remains totally committed to the United cause.
It all places Moyes in a very uncomfortable position, trying to get the best from a squad that is patently not good enough to challenge for the title this season, knowing one transfer window has already been wasted and January is never the time to address long-standing concerns.
Even this would be accepted with good grace by most fans - including the ones under 35 who have no memory of anything but United winning trophies - if the football was attractive to watch.
Unfortunately, Moyes has largely been unable to manage that either, a problem exacerbated by the retirement of Paul Scholes and current injury-enforced absence of Michael Carrick.
Positives come from the knowledge that in the midst of that 1989-90 disaster, United managed to win the FA Cup, a triumph that provided the platform for Ferguson to take the club into an unprecedented two decades of glory.
It has also been stated by United's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward that the club is not dependent on a top-four finish for further commercial growth, meaning Moyes will be given time to put his plans into operation.
Yet failing to secure a Champions League berth for next season would have an adverse effect on Moyes' ability to recruit top-quality additions.
"The very minimum requirement is a Champions League place and to win a trophy," said Atkinson.
"But for United to win the league now, they are going to need snookers. They need a miracle from somewhere.
"Nobody will fancy them tomorrow. Nobody will say they are going to win the league.
"But you have players walking around here with a whole host of championship medals. They have to start performing like champions.
"They have to self-motivate and get themselves going."