The 1-1 draw between Shakhtar Donetsk and Manchester United on Wednesday in the Champions League may have compounded the pressure on David Moyes, but for the man on the other bench, it was another feather in the cap of a long, successful career.
Mircea Lucescu became Shakhtar’s longest-serving manager on Monday in his ninth full season with the club, surpassing Oleg Oshenkov, who won the club’s first two major titles. Under Oshenkov, Shakhtar took the USSR Cup in 1961 and 1962, but the 2012-13 Ukrainian Premier League champions only won six trophies between then and Lucescu’s first year.
Right from the start, the Romanian manager proved to be a winner. In all, he has won seven league titles, five Ukrainian Cups and Super Cups and the 2009 UEFA Cup. Now 68, Lucescu had several other opportunities last summer when his Shakhtar contract was close to expiring, but he did not hesitate to put pen to paper on an extension.
After doing so, he gave an interview to Romanian outlet Adevărul, in which he explained his longevity and a bit of his coaching philosophy (translated from Romanian):
Contracts mean absolutely nothing. I’m valuable as long as the my performance is satisfactory. When it’s not, we’ll shake hands, and I’ll look after my own business. …
I have no use for their [players’] legs — only their minds. I value intelligence in the first order, but I know not all of them can be smart, so I try to balance the cumulative effect between games and training. I talk to them about education, attitude, discipline. … And I’m talking about all kinds of education: professional, civil, health, attitude in training.
In the hot seat at Manchester United, Moyes was supposed to provide United with the same kind of longevity and success that Lucescu has found in Donetsk and that Sir Alex Ferguson found at Old Trafford before Moyes arrived. But Lucescu has what Moyes doesn’t, because he is still working through the transition period: an obvious identity to his team.
Lucescu has brought in scores of South Americans to provide the creative thrust, and he recruits Eastern Europeans to keep the defense tight. Shakhtar has 11 Brazilians on the roster, including Luiz Adriano and Croatian international Eduardo da Silva.
The manager’s formula of attack-at-all-costs soccer provided nearly a year where the club did not lose a competitive game, between Champions League losses on Nov. 23, 2011, and Nov. 7, 2012. Shakhtar lost just one game in each of the last two seasons, although it has already lost twice in 2013-14.
However, Lucescu and Shakhtar are off to an unbeaten start to the current Champions League campaign. After defeating Real Sociedad 2-0 in Spain and coming back to tie United at home on Wednesday, Donetsk sits on top of its group. Despite being one of the underrated teams in the competition, it has a chance to repeat its quarterfinal feat of 2011.