For a soccer club with so much tradition and history of success this season has become quite a frustrating one for Manchester United. United’s poor run of form in English play has spilled over into European competition as they continued their struggle in Greece losing to Olympiakos in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 match up. Currently sitting in seventh place in their home league the fans in Manchester would be hoping that the Champions League could provide them with the opportunity to get some sort of change to turn around their season.
It has been a season of unrest for Manchester United to say the least. At the end of last season they lost their longtime manager Sir Alex Ferguson when he decided to retire and pass the reins to compatriot and previous coach of Everton David Moyes. The hire was lauded at first but the tides have changed as Moyes has failed to continue the winning ways that United fans had come to expect from Ferguson. In a lot of ways it was unfair to Moyes that virtually everyone just assumed he could seamlessly transition into a role and keep the success of a man who is considered the best manager in English soccer history. Winning became such the norm under Ferguson that fans of United have a hard time watching their team struggle against the bottom of the barrel teams in England, and now in European play as well.
Manchester will now have to look to get a very good result when they face Olympiakos again in the return leg in Manchester. Losing in Greece 2-0 means they will have to get a similar result and hope they can keep the Greek side from scoring an away goal in order to progress to the quarterfinals in the Champions League. The match up in Greece showed a continuation of all the aspects of the game which Manchester United has struggled with this season. They were dominant in their possession of the ball, retaining 60 percent of the ball but failing to create real scoring chances with their possession. For a team who boasts the offensive talents of Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie goal scoring has not come easy for them. The Greek side simply made better of their opportunities in the first leg while also creating more clear-cut chances even with less of the ball. Defense has probably been the biggest weakness for this year’s Manchester United side. That is something they will most definitely have to change before Olymiakos makes their way to Manchester for the second leg. If Olympiakos can score a precious away goal there they will greatly improve their chances of pulling off the upset over the English champions and moving to the quarterfinals.
David Moyes needs to find a way to inject some sort of life into his club over the next few weeks or their chances of progressing any farther in the Champions League or their prospects of making the competition next season could slip through their fingers. For soccer fans continuing to watch a Manchester United side struggle is an oddity especially to a Greek side that, while competitive domestically, no one really saw challenging the Red Devils. The soccer world will be keyed in on Manchester to see the return leg of what could become a major upset in the Champions League.
Commentary by Max Petkevicius