Old Trafford. Wednesday night. Over the last two decades the home of Manchester United football club has been the location for some stunning and memorable football matches involving an English club in Europe, and if David Moyes is serious about the longevity of his position of manager at this most famous of teams he will probably require another this Wednesday.
Known as the Theatre of Dreams, Old Trafford is arguably the place which English football fans would call the perfect setting for a huge evening of dramatic, atmospheric and exhilarating European football. It must be said that Anfield may have lay claim to that title in the past and it may do so again in the very near future. However, such has been the dominance of United since the formation of the Premier League; Champions League games have been almost as permanent as domestic league fixtures in the Red Devils calendar. Despite all of this, the past and future few days could see the end of any real challenge in both competitions, surprisingly early for United as we only now sit in mid-March.
United trail Greek triers Olympiakos 2-0 from a first leg that saw their performance described as woeful, inadequate, one-paced and directionless. Moyes himself agreed, saying of his overwhelming disappointment of not only the result, but perhaps more importantly the way that his charges played in what many suggested was one of the kinder draws that they could have received in the last 16 of the competition, avoiding teams like AC Milan and Galatasaray. There was no fight, no desire, no passion, and the league performances haven’t proved to be much better. On Sunday old foes Liverpool rode into town, and after 90 minutes left Manchester with three points, three goals and more than three reasons as to why they are now without question challenging for the Premier League title. United, the current champions lest we forget, conversely sit an incredible twelve points behind fourth place and a further six behind current league leaders Chelsea, albeit with one game in hand. Never mind retaining the title, qualifying for the Champions League is now an almost impossible task. Winning the competition seems to be the easiest way to do that, and nobody in football can seriously see that happening.
It has been such a fall from grace that, almost inevitably, cracks are starting to appear within at this most famous of clubs. Moyes suggested in his pre-Olympiakos press conference that “this club does not work on short-term vision; it works on a long-term vision.” Maybe so; certainly an unquestionable statement when concerned with previous manager Sir Alex Ferguson. However there now surely have been too many poor performances and poorer results to maintain the belief that Moyes will have the chance to stay for the duration of his six year contract. Following the Liverpool debacle United have won only six of their fourteen home league games this season, and have a goal difference of just +3 to show for it. This is not the Manchester United we know, certainly at Old Trafford. An unconfirmed fanzine report suggested that a senior player called Moyes ‘clueless’ after the Liverpool defeat and that wouldn’t have happened in Ferguson’s time. Captain Nemanja Vidic, sent off against Liverpool, will leave at the end of the season, and speculation surrounds Robin Van Persie, who was also said to be unhappy at some of the Scotsman’s training methods.
Moyes publicly retains the support of Ferguson, Vice-chairman Ed Woodward, the Glazer family and the dressing room. Turning around the deficit against Olympiakos is vital to maintain such a standing, and he can expect a strong showing from the club’s supporters at Old Trafford come 7.45pm on Wednesday. It is without doubt though that should they fail to progress to the quarter finals then the manager who was so successful at Everton may be facing his own Greek Tragedy, and be in serious risk of losing one of the most important jobs in world football before this most competitive of Premier League seasons is complete.