After three days of relentless speculation about his future at Manchester United, David Moyes is entitled to a lot of leeway. Not only did the team’s 3-0 win at Old Trafford see Olympiakos out of UEFA Champions League, it allowed United to bounce back from its most embarrassing loss of the season.
With the thin possibility to winning silverware still alive, the first year Red Devils’ boss can speak about his team with renewed optimism.
“I don’t see why [United can’t win the competition],” Moyes said after seeing the Greek champions out of the competition. “If we can play to our capabilities, I think we can be a match for any team.”
But how much did Wednesday’s performance reflect those capabilities? We’ve seen Manchester United play better, but it’s been a while. In group stage, they put in impressive performances against both Bayer Leverkusen and Shakhtar Donetsk – teams that have more talent than Olympiakos. Against a team decidedly below their talent level, a 3-0 result wouldn’t be cause of celebration had United not dug an initial hole.
In the early stages of the competition, however, the Bayer and Shakhtar games carried none of the stakes of today’s must-win match.
“I told the players on Monday morning we have to win 3-0 to give the fans something back,” Moyes explained. Without a three-goal result, the Red Devils would have either done to penalty kicks or been eliminated from the competition “I thought it was a magnificent team performance. We carried no passengers and everybody fought their corner.”
The biggest of the night’s stars was Robin van Persie, who scored twice in Wednesday’s first half to pull United even. Completing his hat trick in the second half, van Persie carried the Red Devils into the final eight, avoiding what would have been a historic exit at the boots of Olympiakos.
“Only certain players in the world are capable of scoring a hat trick in the Champions League. Robin van Persie is one of them,” Moyes said.
But indicative of the magnitude of Moyes’ plight, the manager’s status at the club was as much a part of the post-gmae conversation as his star striker’s hat trick.
“I’m not feeling any pressure from inside the club,” Moyes reiterated, maintaining the same stance he’s held throughout the trying period following Sunday’s defeat to Liverpool.
From Wednesday’s post-match press conference:
People will probably think it’s a turning point in people’s careers but I didn’t see it like that because the club don’t see it like that. I see myself here for a long time. Every time we have a good game we’ve never backed it up. We are going to keep going in this competition but it’s going to be tough. There’s a lot of good teams. We know we have a lot of work to do but it’s a great result and we want to stay in the competition. The other teams are good now and we look forward to the draw.