Well, it was fun while it lasted. Five seasons in the Premier League isn't a bad effort and there were some amazing highlights but all good things come to an end. For most teams outside the Big 6, you're only one poor transfer window away from relegation, so we've been lucky to stay where we are after years of not investing in our defence. But sooner or later our luck was going to run out and it appears now is that time. Speaking of luck, it's completely deserted Nigel Pearson. When he arrived it felt like he could do no wrong. There was an air of invincibility about the team and we went from dead and buried to looking like certainties to stay up. But... it all changed in the moment that Deeney shuffled up against Spurs and hit the exact penalty that kids everywhere are coached not to - easy height, not in the corner, not hit hard. That kick ended a period where we were all over Spurs, had them pegged in and we looked like the team with aspirations of the top six. We haven't played well since. The significance of this moment was probably lost at the time, as it was another good performance and we were all still thinking we'd carry on charging up the table. But here we are three games later, having taken just one point from those games, two of which were against direct relegation rivals, having been ahead in every game. But it's not just the results that matter, it's the manner of them. Pearson was walking on water when he came in, we looked like a team that could challenge for Europe. The collective belief amongst players, fans and staff was that we'd got back in touch with the pack and it wouldn't be long before we accelerated away from them and stayed up quite comfortably. But that's been shattered by a succession of injury time goals, poor defending and a team that has simply been unable to match the intensity of relegation rivals. And although Pearson remains a good manager, he's no longer looking like a lucky manager, which can be just as important. His substitutions have started to have as deleterious effect on games, trying to be positive but just leaving us more exposed. In fairness to him, the attacking cupboard is bare. When he turns around in his shiny Watford gilet, who can he call on to turn the momentum back in our favour? An out of form striker that can't even control a football, a crocked ex England international who hasn't started a run of games for about three years, or a non-goalscoring Baileys-loving centre forward who somehow gets worse every season. Brilliant. It won't be Pearson's fault if we go down, that lies firmly at the feet of Pozzo, Duxbury and Giraldi, in particular because of their ludicrous decision to reappoint Quique, but that provides scant comfort at the moment. He's not going to complain in public but you don't need to be a body language genius to work out that he's not chuffed to bits with our failure to strengthen the defence. Pearson earned some of his luck, throwing Sarr straight in (when Quique would've held him back for another few months then deployed him out of position) and forging a bond with Deeney that led to one of his ever rarer spells of good form but that penalty miss and the injury to Sarr have sunk us. We are so predictable without the latter's pace in the team, he was literally the one player we couldn't afford to lose for a key run of games. Anyway, this is supposed to be the match preview so probably should write something about the opposition. If we are falling somewhat short of our expectations, then Manchester United are the masters of underachievement. We might bemoan our lack of investment but look at the money they've wasted on bang average players. Their owners just do whatever's necessary to keep the commercial juggernaut rolling but have no concept of how to build a squad to challenge for titles. They splashed out £75 million on Harry Maguire simply because that's what Liverpool spent on Van Dijk. One team got the world's best centre back, the other got an error prone boxhead. They also hired a totally inept manager as it looked good commercially to have a returning hero. Be under no illusion, he's probably the worst manager in the whole league, a completely vanilla character who can't believe that he's somehow landed one of world football's top jobs. The only reason they're not fighting relegation is down to some of the quality individuals they still have within the squad - as a team they're entirely dysfunctional and directionless. Onto the game itself. Nothing has been more obvious in the history of mankind than Odion Ighalo scoring against us on his Old Trafford debut. The player that cried when he left Watford will scoop his way past a bemused Cathcart and then scuff the ball into the net before running off to the corner to fall to his knees and point to the sky, and the whole stadium will belt out his stolen song. Some idiots will get upset that he celebrated scoring against us because the modern culture is to demand an embarrassed reaction, shooing team mates away. This will of course completely overlook the fact that we forced him into a move to China that he had no interest in, making him leave behind his young family. We will do exactly what we've done at Old Trafford pretty much every season since we've been promoted - play well, miss a couple of big chances and then lose to a pretty dreadful United team who were there for the taking. We'll then lose to Liverpool too and people will be saying that we only need to get five/six/seven points more than our direct rivals to stay up, ignoring the dwindling number of games left and a squad devoid of any confidence. Anyway, here's to hoping that we put in a sterling performance that renders this whole preview a classic example of "knicker wetting" but I won't hold my breath. COYH.