It was not supposed to be like this for André Villas-Boas and Tottenham. Three months after assembling a new-look squad for £110m, the manager's blueprint for success during his second season at the club is threatening to go up in smoke.

Sunday's Premier League match against Manchester United could not have arrived at a more decisive time. In reality a victory could propel Spurs back into the top four and ease the pressure on Villas-Boas, whose November was an unmitigated disaster. However, Spurs have not beaten United at White Hart Lane in 12 years and the wounds of last weekend's 6-0 defeat at Manchester City are still raw.

Villas-Boas, whose side won four of their first five league games this season, secured one point from a possible nine in November. Early form has dissipated and Tottenham, while full of zest and energy at the start of the campaign, have recently resembled a collection of individuals still acclimatising to their new surroundings.

Perhaps it is no surprise, given the myriad signings that arrived during Gareth Bale's protracted move to Real Madrid. Villas-Boas brought in seven players to challenge the first team while Bale, Clint Dempsey, Steven Caulker, Scott Parker and Tom Huddlestone departed.

Tottenham's influx of talent was lauded. In September Michael Dawson said the squad "certainly has to be the best" he had experienced during his time at the club. Harry Redknapp argued that it was the strongest group in the Premier League following the introduction of Paulinho, Roberto Soldado, Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen, Etienne Capoue, Vlad Chiriches and Nacer Chadli.

After an encouraging opening Villas-Boas's side have appeared increasingly disjointed, as selection has rotated, with injuries a factor and performances faltering. Lamela, in particular, has appeared at a low ebb.

The 21-year-old, signed for a club-record fee of £30m from Roma, has shown glimpses of quality in his 12 appearances but played on the left wing rather than his preferred right at Eastlands last weekend and has suffered due to the impressive form of Andros Townsend, registering only one goal in the Europa League.

Soldado, signed for £26m from Valencia, scored a fine effort at Aston Villa but his remaining three league goals have all come from the penalty spot, with the Spaniard often appearing isolated and cut off from his midfield team-mates.

Paulinho has arguably been the most impressive acquisition. The Brazilian has performed consistently in midfield without being electric, while the performances of Christian Eriksen, who was magnificent on his debut against Norwich, dipped slightly before he injured his ankle ligaments.

Then there is Etienne Capoue, who looked formidable early in the season but injured an ankle and has yet to resurface. Vlad Chiriches has done reasonably well at centre-half alongside Dawson, with Jan Verthongen moving to left-back, while Nacer Chadli has not featured in the league since September.

Villas-Boas now faces the difficult task of revitalising a squad out of form, albeit following some solid displays in Europe, and preparing them for the daunting visit of United, who thrashed Bayer Leverkusen 5-0 in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Tottenham's dip has coincided with a number of controversies at the club. Villas-Boas's reaction to the Hugo Lloris head injury sustained against Everton was puzzling, the manager claiming a number of specialists were wrong in suggesting the goalkeeper should have been withdrawn from the action, while his criticism of the home support the previous week was arguably more damaging, saying the White Hart Lane crowd created a "very tense, difficult atmosphere".

After the capitulation at City Villas-Boas lambasted his players and claimed they should be ashamed of their performance, with senior members of the club's hierarchy becoming increasingly disgruntled.

Before game the Manchester United manager, David Moyes, said he expected Spurs to challenge for a place in the top four this season and claimed that the plethora of new arrivals would take some time to settle.

"I think Tottenham have started the season well," said Moyes. "They have a lot of new people in the squad and only a couple of weeks ago they were flying and everybody was doing well. I don't think they are any worse than last year but they are trying to bed down a lot of new players. I think they are contenders to be in the top four and are a knocking bet to be in the top six."

Asked if he thought Villas-Boas was under pressure and potentially facing the sack, Moyes added: "I don't see how people can say that. It is hardly worth answering because I don't personally see that. That is just somebody starting a story."

Villas-Boas's misery was compounded in Tromso on Thursday when a home fan was removed from the stadium for directing a chant of "you're getting sacked in the morning" at the Portuguese. A few thousand more people may repeat that chorus on Sunday, as Villas-Boas attempts to get Tottenham's campaign back on track.