Skip to content

UEFA Champions League Preview: With blindfold and cigarette, David Moyes faces the firing line

Mar 19, 2014, 2:04 AM EST

What next for Moyes and United? More new faces in January according to Arlo. Reuters

Wednesday’s may be David Moyes‘ last match with Manchester United. Or maybe it will be the next one. As long as the Red Devils play as poorly as they did this weekend, Alex Ferguson’s replacement is a zombie: walking the sidelines with no vital signs; with nobody able to explain how he’s able to carry on.

The explanation used to be that theoretical patience Manchester United prides itself on, but even that’s starting to wear thin. Every major outlet across England has some report about his job security, with some referencing disappointment in the Red Devil boardroom (examples A, B). If Ed Woodward and the Glazers are already reconsidering Moyes’ future, the rest of this season may be his Green Mile.

The next step on that path is at Old Trafford, with a game few would have thought an obstacle before UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 started. Since then, however, Manchester United has shown itself capable of falling to Greek champions Olympiakos, having done so three weeks ago in Piraeus. At the time, the result was seen as one of the worst of Moyes’ tenure, one that leaves them two goals down (2-0) before tonight’s kickoff. Then this weekend happened.

“When you lose in the fashion we did and against one of our biggest rivals [Liverpool] there is always a lot of disappointment,” Moyes explained in Tuesday’s press conference. “We knew it was a big week, but as soon as [the Liverpool match] was over we concentrated on this game. We told the players on Monday morning that the only thing that matters now is this game and our focus is on that.”

If the team can regain its focus — if the players can put Sunday’s embarrassment behind them — they should have no problem with Olympiakos. Despite the Greek champions’ huge lead in the Super League (18 points, title already clinched), United have an overwhelming edge in talent. There’s no player who’ll be selected in Michel González’s starting XI who would start for the Red Devils, making it all the more remarkable they were able to produce a 2-0 win three weeks ago.

“The work of a football team shows on the pitch,” Michel said. “There are no secrets, no surprises when it comes to this game. All I know is that we played well in the first leg and deserved to win, but this will be a different game and we will need a good performance and a good result to show our worth.”

Manchester United not only need to win on Wednesday, they need to do so by at least three goals if they’re to avoid penalty kicks. A two-goal win without keeping a clean sheet means they’re out – the byproduct of being the only group stage winner not to score an away goal. They need to not only be better than the teams that showed up in Piraeus and against Liverpool, they need to be much better if they’re to preserve their only chance at silverware this season.

“The players know they can play better,” Moyes said. “I don’t think any of them are questioning that. But I’ve got belief in the players because I see what they can do and hopefully we can show it.”

Amid all the gloom and doom that rightfully hovers over the Red Devils, it needs to be reiterated: They can win this game. Robin van Persie is capable of winning it on his own. So is Wayne Rooney. Even with their suspect midfield, the Red Devils are capable of controlling this match, providing they have a better, more cohesive plan than they implemented in Greece. Winning on Wednesday should not be that hard.

But if United doesn’t “show it,” as its manager put it? Moyes may as well stay on the field after the game, adorn himself with a blindfold and cigarette, and wait. In a season of lows and lowers, going out of Champions League on home soil to Olympiakos would represent a new trough, one that builds on Sunday’s disaster.

Perhaps Red Devils management will refrain from taking aim, but out of Champions League, there’ll be no reason to keep Moyes in his job. At a minimum, it will test their faith that the current manager truly is the right man for the job.

Latest Posts
  1. Arsene Wenger hails his team’s attitude, Sanogo and the path forward

    Nov 26, 2014, 10:30 PM EST

    FBL-EUR-C1-ARSENAL-ANDERLECHT-TRAINING Getty Images

    Wenger was in good spirits following his side’s victory that put an end to his two-match losing skid.

  2. Ross Barkley Divegate: Why Martinez defends him and what it means

    Nov 26, 2014, 9:50 PM EST

    Everton v West Ham United - Premier League Getty Images

    Yes, Barkley dove and yes, (news flash) Martinez is overly protective of his players.

  3. Cesc Fabregas claims he’s playing the best football of his life

    Nov 26, 2014, 8:32 PM EST

    Let's talk about Cesc... Getty Images

    “I feel that right now I am playing some of the best football of my career,” Fabregas said.

  4. Emile Heskey offers himself to Leicester City to help scoring woes

    Nov 26, 2014, 7:38 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-DISCRIMINATION-HESKEY-SIN

    “It goes without saying, I’d love to come,” Heskey told BBC Radio Leicester.

  5. Franck Ribery lashes out at “politics” behind the Ballon d’Or

    Nov 26, 2014, 6:44 PM EST

    gareth_bale_franck_ribery AP

    Poor Franck. All fired up and not even on the 23-man shortlist.

  6. Despite their struggles, Liverpool’s season intact as spirit shines through

    Nov 26, 2014, 6:00 PM EST

    Can Liverpool build off this draw in Sofia? Their manager Brendan Rodgers has cause for optimism.

  7. Champions League roundup: Arsenal, Atletico Madrid through, tense elsewhere

    Nov 26, 2014, 5:21 PM EST

    All the action from the penultimate games in Groups A-D, as two teams booked their spot in the last 16.

  8. Paul Mitchell named Tottenham’s new head of recruitment

    Nov 26, 2014, 5:19 PM EST

    Paul Mitchell

    The raid on Southampton continues, as their recruiting guru heads to Spurs.

  9. Arsenal 2-0 Dortmund: Sanogo and Sanchez send the Gunners through to the Knockout Stage

    Nov 26, 2014, 4:43 PM EST

    Arsenal FC v Borussia Dortmund - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    It was an upbeat display from the Gunners, who move on to the Champions League knockout stage.

  10. Ludogorets 2-2 Liverpool: Late equalizer spells more misery for Reds, but there’s hope

    Nov 26, 2014, 4:42 PM EST

    Reds cough up late goal, but can still advance to the last 16 of the UCL with a win over Basel in their final group game.

  11. VIDEO: Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo scores 71st Champions League goal

    Nov 26, 2014, 4:10 PM EST

    FBL-EUR-C1-BASEL-REAL FBL-EUR-C1-BASEL-REAL

    Watch Ronaldo go level with Raul as he puts some pressure on Messi.

  12. At The Half – Arsenal 1-0 Dortmund: Sanogo’s strike the difference

    Nov 26, 2014, 3:41 PM EST

    Arsenal FC v Borussia Dortmund - UEFA Champions League

    Good start for the Arsenal, scoring early through Yaya Sanogo.

  13. Pochettino wants more rest between European and Premier League matches

    Nov 26, 2014, 3:10 PM EST

    Tottenham Hotspur FC Training and Press Conference Getty Images

    As Tottenham continue to struggle, Mauricio Pochettino believes his team needs more rest between competitions.

  14. Zenit St. Petersburg 1-0 Benfica: Danny strike eliminates Portuguese champs

    Nov 26, 2014, 2:27 PM EST

    FBL-EUR-C1-ZENIT-BENFICA Getty Images

    The Zenit skipper earned three points for the home side as Benfica’s Champions League dreams ended in St. Petersburg.

  15. LIVE – Champions League: Arsenal host Dortmund, Liverpool face Ludogorets

    Nov 26, 2014, 1:58 PM EST

    Britain Soccer Champions League AP

    Follow all the action from the UCL’s eight games on Wednesday, right here.

  16. Liverpool legend says Simon Mignolet is ‘worse than Dracula’

    Nov 26, 2014, 1:13 PM EST

    Norwich City v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    Former Reds’ goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar had some choice words for the struggling Simon Mignolet as Liverpool’s tumultuous season continues.

  17. Arjen Robben: Bayern were ‘brutally punished’ by City

    Nov 26, 2014, 12:29 PM EST

    Manchester City FC v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    The Bayern star was outshone by Sergio Aguero’s hat trick in Munich’s 3-2 loss to Manchester City.

  18. Victor Moses out up to eight weeks with injury

    Nov 26, 2014, 11:30 AM EST

    Stoke City v West Ham United - Premier League Getty Images

    Stoke City will be without their on-loan winger as the Nigerian international is sidelined with a thigh injury.

Featured video

PST Extra: Top 4 showdowns on Sunday