CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Moyes bats aside speculation over his future as Greeks come calling

Manchester United go into second leg 2-0 down to Olympiakos and with manager under pressure

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 March, 2014, 10:10am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 March, 2014, 12:44pm

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Manchester United manager David Moyes brushed off suggestions ahead of his side’s crunch Champions League game against Olympiakos that his position is under threat.

“My future has not changed one bit,” he said at Old Trafford.

“We know we have put ourselves in a poor position, but we have belief."

We talk about the future, we make big plans going forward. That is why they gave me a six-year contract.
David Moyes

Trailing 2-0 to the Greek side in the last 16, United must attempt to become only the sixth team to overturn a deficit of two goals or more in the competition’s knockout phase.

Since Moyes took over this season, United have also struggled to get a qualifying place for next season’s Champions League. They are now 12 points below the top four in the Premier League after Sunday’s 3-0 loss at home to Liverpool.

The team’s travails prompted reports in British newspapers this week that Moyes could be at risk if United were eliminated by Olympiakos. Some newspapers said he has three games to turn around United’s fortunes.

But Moyes insisted his position is secure. “I have a great job, and I know the direction I want to go in,” he said. “We know we have put ourselves in a poor position, but we have belief.”

Asked if he had been given assurances by the United hierarchy that there is no threat, Moyes replied: “The biggest assurance is that they let me get on with the job.

“They never discuss it [his future]. We talk about the future, we make big plans going forward. That is why they gave me a six-year contract. This is not a club that works on a short-term vision; it is a long-term one.”

United’s supporters continued to provide vocal backing to the team during the chastening loss to Liverpool and Moyes remains confident that he is capable of restoring their team to former glories.

“I actually think they have seen some defeats they wouldn’t have expected and they have stuck with the team throughout,” said the former Everton manager.

“They have seen great success here in the past and will see great success again in the future. This club is the biggest club in the world. It might not feel it today, but it will rise again.”

United have lost seven of their 14 games since the start of 2014, but Moyes says that he continues to receive support from his storied predecessor Alex Ferguson, who personally recommended his appointment.

“He has been incredibly supportive,” Moyes said. “I speak with him regularly and see him at the games. He’s very supportive.

“He told me before I came in that it was a difficult job, but he is always here to help. [Director] David Gill, [vice chairman] Ed [Woodward], all the board are very supportive.”

Defender Patrice Evra appeared beside Moyes at Tuesday’s press conference and while he was at a loss to explain United’s current predicament, he told the fans to expect a much improved performance against Olympiakos.

“When you win, you win together. When you lose, you lose together,” said the France left-back.

“It has been a difficult season for everyone. We are not used to losing games, but everyone fights for this club, everyone loves this club.

“In life, you always have a second chance. I am not going to tell you we are going to qualify, but I promise we are going to fight and the fans will be proud of us after the game.”

Centre-backs Chris Smalling (hamstring) and Jonny Evans (calf) are both expected to miss Wednesday’s match after sitting out training on Tuesday, while club-record signing Juan Mata is cup-tied.

Moyes also revealed that the club’s Japanese playmaker Shinji Kagawa, who last started a game on January 22, would play some part in the match.

“Shinji is an important player for us,” he said.

“It has been a difficult time and he has not played as often as he would have liked. Shinji is someone we like and will definitely be involved at some point tomorrow.”

For Olympiakos, their first-leg success unexpectedly proved the catalyst for a downturn in their domestic fortunes, as they slumped to consecutive defeats – their first of the season – against Panathinaikos and PAOK.

They returned to winning ways on Saturday, however, beating Panthrakikos 2-0 at the Karaiskakis Stadium to secure a 41st Greek league title – their fourth in succession.

Manager Michel rested several first-team players with a view to Wednesday’s game, but experienced forward Javier Saviola is a doubt after playing only a limited role in Tuesday’s eve-of-match training session.

“We know the game lasts 90 minutes, so even if we score, we definitely won’t think the game is over,” said captain Avraam Papadopoulos, whose team last reached the quarter-finals in 1999.

“We’re not stressed, but we understand the importance of the game. It’s one of the most important games the team has ever played.”

Michel added: “My players aren’t scared of anything. Maybe the manager is a bit more scared than them, but as they’re playing, I can assure you they won’t be scared of anything.”