Giannis Maniatis celebrates an Olympiakos goal as Manchester United
forward Wayne Rooney
looks on in despair during their Champions League first leg game, 25 February. Reuters
David Moyes has been taking the criticism for much of Manchester United's performances this season, and rightly so. But on Tuesday night, in front of a raucous Olympiakos crowd, the United players, who have been there and done that and won many titles in the past, seemed to just shrink into anonymity.
As much as Moyes can be picked on, the onus must also fall upon the players, who have plenty of experience, but have way too often been lower than below-par this season.
The United manager, following another painful blow in a can-this-season-please-end campaign, took the blame upon himself, while admitting the away side did not deserve anything out of the last 16 first leg Champions League encounter.
"It's the worst we've played in Europe [this season], that's for sure," Moyes said after the 2-0 loss to Olympiakos on Tuesday night. "It was a really poor performance. We didn't get going from the start. We didn't deserve anything from tonight.
"We just never got to grips with things. To a man, you could hardly pick anyone out [who played well]. We just didn't perform well.
"I'm surprised. I didn't see that level of performance coming. We came into the game in good form and a good mindset but it didn't show tonight.
"I have to say I don't think we were two goals worse off in the game. [For the first goal] they had a shot, which got deflected... but we didn't offer enough on the night to create a goal really."
Alejandro Dominguez opened the scoring for the Greek side, with on-loan Arsenal man Joel Campbell making it 2-0 early in the second half to put a rather considerable nail in United's increasingly heavy coffin.
"To beat a great side like United in the manner we beat them is very special," Olympiakos manager Michel said. "I can't hide my joy. I feel proud of my players. It was a great moment for us.
"But we must look ahead to the second leg. We still have the match at Old Trafford. We expect a different United at Old Trafford, we have huge respect for them. Anyone who thinks 2-0 is enough to qualify is mistaken: 2-0 is not enough to get through against United at Old Trafford. We have to keep on working to make it through and make history.
"Our team is becoming more and more of a team as time goes on. We were preparing for this game for a long time in silence. We picked the best moment to show that Greek football is alive and kicking, and that Olympiakos can take on great sides like United."
At 2-0 United are definitely not out of the tie, but one goal for Olympiakos in the second leg at Old Trafford, and the Red Devils will need at least four goals to go through. So, keeping a tight ship at the back will be essential if United hold hopes of remaining in their final cup tournament this season.
"We'll do everything we possibly can to reverse the 2-0 defeat tonight," Moyes added. "We'll put it right, we're determined to put it right and we'll have opportunities to do that in the coming weeks.
"There's undoubtedly talent at Manchester United but tonight we didn't show it. Me and the team, we didn't show it together. I take responsibility. It's my team and I'll always front up. The players are hurting as well. They know how they performed. We're a team and we stick together.
"We didn't play well and we have to play better. We can do. The one good thing is there's still a second game to come. Old Trafford's seen some great nights in the past and I'm looking forward to hopefully seeing another one."
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