Champions League

Moyes at eye of storm

2014-03-19 10:20
David Moyes (AFP)

Manchester - Manchester United manager David Moyes will lead his team into battle against Olympiakos in the Champions League on Wednesday potentially needing to make history in order to save his job.

The reigning English champions trail 2-0 to their Greek counterparts following the first leg of the last 16 tie and have never previously overturned a two-goal deficit in the competition's knockout phase.

Sunday's humbling 3-0 loss at home to Liverpool left United 18 points off the pace in the Premier League and 12 points below the top four, and having already exited both domestic cup competitions, Wednesday's game at Old Trafford represents a last opportunity to salvage their season.

British press reports suggest that Moyes may not survive the setback of elimination at the hands of Olympiakos, who have lost on all of their 11 previous visits to England.

The former Everton manager struck a defiant tone in his pre-game press conference, however, declaring that his future "has not changed one bit" and insisting that he still retains the full support of the club's board.

He also cited a 3-0 victory over Barcelona in the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1984 as reason to believe that United are capable of turning the tie around against the newly recrowned Greek champions.

"We will try and do that," said Moyes, who succeeded storied former United manager Alex Ferguson at the end of last season.

"It is only twice that Manchester United have done that (overturn a 2-0 deficit in Europe in a home game).

"Nineteen-eighty-four was the recent one, against Barcelona. Robbo (Bryan Robson) I think it was with the two goals.

"It is not something that has happened a lot, but it is something we have to make happen."

Moyes is also aware of the debt that he owes to United's supporters, who continued to vocally back the team until the very end of Sunday's loss to Liverpool.

"The first thing I mentioned to the players was that me, the team, we need to make sure to give them a night to remember," he said.

"We will leave nothing behind on the night hopefully and give everything to get through to the next round."

- Evra calls for 'character'

United offered disconcertingly little resistance in the first-leg loss to Olympiakos in Piraeus on February 25, but defender Patrice Evra says the team are supremely motivated to make amends.

"We have not been in this situation before," he said.

"We were always playing to win the league, win the Champions League, but you have to show your character, your personality.

"We don't want to think about Sunday. It is gone, the past is the past. Now the game tomorrow (Wednesday) is the most important thing."

Moyes reported no fresh injuries after the defeat by Liverpool, but centre-backs Chris Smalling (hamstring) and Jonny Evans (calf) remain unavailable and Spanish midfielder Juan Mata is cup-tied.

Olympiakos's first-leg success unexpectedly proved the catalyst for a downturn in their domestic fortunes, as they slumped to consecutive defeats -- their first of the season -- against Panathinaikos and PAOK.

They returned to winning ways on Saturday, however, beating Panthrakikos 2-0 at the Karaiskakis Stadium to secure a 41st Greek league title -- their fourth in succession.

Manager Michel rested several first-team players with a view to Wednesday's game, but experienced forward Javier Saviola is a doubt after playing only a limited role in Tuesday's eve-of-match training session.

"We know the game lasts 90 minutes, so even if we score, we definitely won't think the game is over," said captain Avraam Papadopoulos, whose team last reached the quarter-finals in 1999.

"We're not stressed, but we understand the importance of the game. It's one of the most important games the team has ever played."

Michel added: "My players aren't scared of anything. Maybe the manager is a bit more scared than them, but as they're playing, I can assure you they won't be scared of anything."


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