Joel Campbell scores for Olympiakos against Manchester United in the Champions League
Manchester United suffered defeat in Athens at the hands of Greek Champions Olympiakos after a woefully inept performance. The visitors are down 2-0 from the first leg and have it all to do at Old Trafford in three weeks’ time. Alejandro Dominguez’s instinctive reaction to a shot from Giannis Maniatis ended up in the back of the net past David De Gea.
Dominguez was unlucky not to have scored earlier, when his mazy, unopposed run was blocked by a last-ditch Nemanja Vidic tackle. Chris Smalling, deployed at right back, looked awkward and uncomfortable as he stumbled and bumbled his way up and down the touchline. He wasn’t alone, with United only registering their first shot on goal in the 89th minute of the match.
The home side doubled their lead in the second half when Arsenal loanee Joel Campbell scored a curling left-footed shot from outside the area to again leave the Spaniard helpless. Cleverley and Valencia were replaced by Welbeck and Kagawa who didn’t have any significant impact, whilst forwards Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie were anonymous. Here we discuss the talking points from the game and welcome comments from both sets of fans.
Worst Champions League performance since Lille
There have been many more disappointing nights since the 1-0 defeat in France nine years ago – two European Cup final losses and a quarterfinal defeat to Bayern, to name a few – but that was widely considered the worst United performance for some years on the continent. That was, of course, until this evening’s woefully inept display by the current Champions of England. United weren’t, like Arsenal and Manchester City the week before, playing one of the giants of the European Game. Instead they were up against Greek side Olympiakos – who ghosted past the opposition with considerable ease.
If it were a Real Madrid, like last season, or Bayern Munich – you could understand the gap in quality compared to an ageing Manchester United side desperately crying out for some much-overlooked investment. United were brushed aside by Barcelona in 2009 and even more convincingly at Wembley in 2011, but that Catalan crop was arguably the best that has ever graced a football pitch; tonight United resembled a Sunday side. When the draw was made in December, you would have thought that even with Moyes’ shaky start United would have enough quality to see off their Greek opponents. Its arguable that this performance was worse than the 2-1 defeat in Basel in 2011 and than that flat night in Lille back in 2005.
Time is quickly running out for David Moyes
They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor was Rome destroyed by one calamitous pilot nose diving into the Coliseum after taking the reigns from the retired captain. Yes, when it rains it monsoons on David Moyes. It isn’t easy taking over from the best – ask Fabio Capello, who had the daunting task of succeeding two-times European Cup winner Arrigo Sacchi.
To be fair, the only comparison between that succession and the one Manchester United fans are witnessing is if Capello walked out onto the training field, stepped on a rake and smashed himself in the face, Maldini and Baresi staring in shock one would assume. Its gone from bad to shocking to the worst possible performance under Moyes, which unfortunately was said around two months ago.
A fan shouldn’t be subjected to kneejerk reactions from some buffoon in your local boozer who still thinks United should still ‘hire Pep Guardiola’, nor do you want to be the one who sticks by the manager through ‘thick and thin’ when what is being put on show is the equivalent of Lisa Riley and the ginger girl off Benefits Street mud wrestling. But there comes a time where you need to establish whether or not David Moyes is the right man to take Manchester United forward. Before Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement, David Moyes wouldn’t have been in my top five that I would have wanted to take over; but the club and the former manager chose him and you want to give him a chance. The football that United are producing is unimaginative, flat and uninspiring.
Manchester United are desperately close to being eliminated from the Champions League, and are even more likely to finish outside the top four for the first since 1990-91. To put that into perspective – that is four years before Adnan Januzaj was even born. Yes, you can argue that taking over from Sir Alex Ferguson is a monumentally difficult challenge, it is, but David Moyes looks out of his depth and players look low on confidence. Many cite the fact that a ‘poor’ Manchester United team won the league last season in comparison to the teams of years gone by. This might be the case, but Robin van Persie looked a different player under the previous regime; he would no doubt have buried that late chance. Sadly for Moyes, time is running out.
Match Conclusion: Woeful United punished in Athens
David Moyes spoke after Fulham about it being “as bad as it gets” following Darren Bent’s late equaliser. If that was as bad as it gets, then I’m unsure how to describe the events that unfolded in the Karaiskakis Stadium this evening. Rio Ferdinand looked as if he was already in retirement, whilst Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick were caught in possession time and time again. Its been said for years, but United’s creative guile has long since disappeared even before the mercurial Paul Scholes departed, again. Valencia and Young look as if you only need to be able to run if you want to become a footballer, with United looking rigid in attacking areas of the pitch.
Much was said of Moyes being a defensive coach, but United look extremely frail when the opposition counterattacks. The once lightning-quick Rio Ferdinand resembles an ageing Dad baffled that his son can now dart past him with ease. Carrick and Cleverley offered little protection to the defence this evening, although the whole side looked disjointed and, as the old saying goes, were chasing shadows for the whole match. Chances were limited for United throughout the match and the only glimmer of hope fell to Robin van Persie, who blazed the ball into the night sky following the only cross Smalling put in that found a United player.
Manchester United now have to overcome a 2-0 defeat in the second leg; a feat last achieved following a captain’s performance by Bryan Robson over Diego Maradona’s Barcelona. I am a betting man, a pretty bad one at that, but you wouldn’t see me backing David Moyes to get a result following the dire performance in the first leg. “As bad as it gets”? Liverpool are up next at home following a tricky away tie at West Brom.