Moyes reign may end in Greek ignominy
Under-fire manager knows result needed as never before against Olympiakos
David Moyes: conceded job is “harder” than he had anticipated. Photograph: Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images
There was a moment among the wreckage of Manchester United’s 3-0 trouncing by Liverpool when David Moyes was forced to confront reality.
He was asked if being the manager of the 20-times champions was more difficult than he had thought. “The job was always going to be hard,” he said. When pushed if the post was not just hard, but harder than he had hoped, the man who has overseen a 43-point swing to United’s fiercest enemy, had to reply in the affirmative. “Harder? Yes I would say so, yes.”
With each demoralising defeat the ire and concerns of United fans focus more on Moyes and whether he is the man for the job. The manner of the defeats the 50-year-old is overseeing is the chief charge against him. All teams lose but to go down constantly by playing like a team of strangers seven months into his inaugural season offers scant hope of optimism.
Supporters want to look at the Moyes project and see a glimmer that things are coming together. Instead, the evidence of the dire 2-0 defeat to Olympiakos three weeks ago in the Champions League and Sunday’s abysmal reverse to Brendan Rodgers’s dazzling Liverpool suggests that United are going backwards under Moyes.
Tactically, Rodgers had no compunction playing the 19-year-old Raheem Sterling in the number 10 slot while Moyes again shunted Juan Mata out wide on the right. Marouane Fellaini continues to look a player sucked under by the challenge of playing in the famous red shirt.
From the moment Moyes replaced Alex Ferguson he has constantly talked of “transition”. The word has been applied to the club, the squad, the expectations of fans. Yet Moyes is also in transition.
One of football’s great truisms is about it being a results business. Winning convinces everyone – from owner to star player to supporter. A glance at Moyes’s record shows failures in the League Cup and FA Cup, that reverse to Olympiakos, supposedly the round’s “easiest” opposition and a dismal seventh position in the league.
The bad news continues. If United drop one more point in the closing nine games they will return a poorest points tally of the Premier League era, dropping below the 75 of the 1996-97 and the 2003-04 campaigns.
Moyes carries the can for this.
If United manage to overcome a Champions League first-leg deficit for only the second time in their history tomorrow against Olympiakos, and progress to the quarter-finals, the picture will change markedly.
“We . . . will certainly go with a mindset to overhaul the deficit,” said Moyes.
The manager knows he needs a result, perhaps as never before in his career.