Is Manchester United in meltdown?
Manchester United have lost 11 times under manager David Moyes this season.
February 26th, 2014
01:08 PM ET

Is Manchester United in meltdown?

The jokes came thick and fast on Twitter after Manchester United’s 2-0 first leg Champions League defeat by Olympiakos in Athens: “The greatest Hellenic triumph since George Michael’s Careless Whisper.”

Former footballers were equally unforgiving: "MUFC have had the odd bad day over the years, but I cannot recall such an abject, hopeless, forlorn performance,” tweeted ex-England international Gary Lineker. “And against such mediocrity."

Then there were the photoshopped pictures of Manchester United’s tactical shape joined together by a thick red line spelling out “LOL.”

Wednesday’s media headlines tightened the tourniquet.

Tabloid newspaper the Sun went for full punning scorn: “Pitta-ful Utd in Greek tragedy as fans demand … MOUSACKA MOYES.”

This was a defeat that rocked the United family so much so that even midfielder Michael Carrick’s wife got involved in the post-mortem, taking to Twitter to abuse former Red Devils captain Roy Keane, who was working as a pundit for British broadcaster ITV.

If Keane, who as an analyst brings an intensity – and that is just with his eyes – that typified his firebrand performances for United, was less than impressed with Carrick’s performance, he was almost incandescent with rage at the England international’s post-match interview.

"That interview was just like the performance: flat. He should say a bit more, have a bit more urgency even in his interview,” said Keane, eyeballing ITV presenter Adrian Chiles. “That just reflected United's performance tonight: flat, with no urgency."

Carrick might have faced up to the cameras, but that was more than the club’s in-house TV station got, which reportedly was not even granted an interview with a player.

While Keane raged, Manchester United manager David Moyes donned his flak jacket and went into crisis management mode.

"That's the worst we've played in Europe,” Moyes told reporters after United’s first defeat to the Greek champions in five meetings.

“We didn't deserve to get anything. I’m surprised; I didn't see that level of performance coming. I take responsibility, we have to play better. The players are hurting."

Even an experienced pathologist might struggle to know where to start in carrying out the autopsy of this shambolic defeat.

Of greatest concern for Moyes was that in the “desire stakes” his players were found pitifully wanting.

Out of the FA Cup and the League Cup and trailing English Premier League leaders Chelsea by 15 points with 11 games left to play, the Champions League represented United’s only chance of silverware this season.

After a season of mediocre performances, surely the players would grab this opportunity with both hands? But in the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium on Tuesday there was only one side that appeared ready to give everything for 90 minutes - and it wasn’t United.

Just as worrying for United was that key players such as Wayne Rooney – recently rewarded with a new contract worth a reported £300,000 ($500,000) a week – and Robin van Persie were so off key.

And this against a side that, when the draw for the knockout stages of the tournament was made in December, was widely viewed as no obstacle to United’s passage into the quarterfinals.

Olympiakos aren’t one of Europe’s strongest teams, and you can easily see United scoring three goals in the second leg at Old Trafford. The problem is that you can just as easily envisage the Greek team scoring against United’s ramshackle defense on March 19.

This was a defeat that raised further questions about the logic behind Moyes’ appointment as Alex Ferguson’s successor. Don't forget the former Everton manager has never won a major trophy as a manager and has limited experience of European football.

Some of Moyes’ picks for this game were mystifying.

United’ s next match is against struggling West Brom in the English Premier League on March 8, but inexplicably Moyes decided to leave Adnan Januzaj, one of the few players who has shown form and consistency this season, behind in Manchester.

Marouane Fellaini, who impressed in United’s win over Crystal Palace at the weekend in his first outing since December 4, was left on the bench by Moyes for the Athens game.

It’s not the first time that Moyes’ tactical philosophy has been questioned - notably after the team delivered 81 crosses in the 2-2 league draw with Fulham, with only 18 finding a teammate.

“If Moyes didn't see #mufc performance coming, it could be because he does not possess the vision,” tweeted Kevin Garside of British paper the Independent.

Van Persie did little to allay the impression that there is tactical drift at United when he told Dutch TV channel NOS: "Our fellow players are sometimes occupying the spaces I want to play in.

"And when I see that it makes it difficult for me to come to those spaces as well. So that forces me to adjust my runs, based on the position of my fellow players. And unfortunately, they're often playing in my zones. I think that's a shame."

Ferguson was given plenty of time to reshape United in his own image, but the alarming sense of deterioration at United this season under Moyes – this was the club’s 11th defeat – has raised questions from supporters whether the club’s current custodian should be entrusted with a reported $166 million transfer war chest in the summer.

Captain Nemanja Vidic has already said he is leaving at the end of this season, while the playing futures of Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, Ryan Giggs, Anderson – currently on loan at Fiorentina - Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverley, Javier Hernandez, Ashley Young and Carrick look uncertain.

So expect plenty of comings and goings at Old Trafford before the end of August.

The key question is whether United’s American owners – the Glazers – will remain patient with a manager who has looked less than comfortable in trying to get to grips with the not inconsiderable task of succeeding Ferguson.

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Filed under:  Football
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. gaz7753

    Firstly it helps to pick the right players in there correct positions, such as kagawa in centre midfield, valencia & young have been crap all season so why not bring Zaha back & play januzi. Play smalling at centre back not ferdi (past his sell by date god bless him) & raheal our best right back. For gods sake get rid of cleverly he has peaked & is just not good enough.
    secondly moral & motivation needs to be dealt with by moyes, sack the backroom staff & replace them with as many of fergies staff which will come back. Simple really.

    February 26, 2014 at 1:39 pm | Reply
    • The Bish

      Great words. Agree 100%. Stop this man turning our team into Everton FC.

      February 26, 2014 at 9:33 pm | Reply
    • Magdy

      David is not up to the job and Man U have to accept that they have made a major mistake giving a great team to a man who never won anything. He is not there to win and just hasn't got a vision. Can we not get Fergie for the next three months and let this useless man go?

      March 16, 2014 at 4:54 pm | Reply
      • usman

        you nailed it so accurately. Get rid of the one that has no qualification and Mr. Alex F. should apology for his poor selection . I felt it as soon as I watched the first few games .

        April 2, 2014 at 5:07 am |
  2. will

    Bit unfair on olim they closed down well and took their chances not used to loading plenty confidence

    February 26, 2014 at 2:05 pm | Reply
  3. ReallyCool

    Isn't football beautiful? When a team is better at any given night, it can beat any other team despite their vast difference theoretically. Olympiacos' players had sparks coming from their eyes and United's players had the look of nirvana. No Mr. Lineker. The result wasn't abject, it was just what it was. A reflection of the two sides for last night at least. And by the way, actual people were playing last night. Not just jerseys.

    February 26, 2014 at 3:51 pm | Reply
  4. nic

    Manchester is a very strong football club.
    Olympiakos plays very good football this season and that is the reason that Man. Un lost the game yesterday.

    February 26, 2014 at 4:12 pm | Reply
  5. Ethan

    First, I'm not a big fan of football, but I am an avid sports fan of several other team sports. Anyway, I don't understand why it's such a huge shock and reason for hyperbole abuse when any team can lose a match on any given day since no sporting event result (unless staged) is set in stone. They had a bad game while the other team had a great game; mix in some fortuitous movements of the ball and player positioning and you have the final score. Why even watch a sports match if there is absolutely no chance of one team beating the other? Maybe I don't know enough about football to know what the big deal is. :/

    February 26, 2014 at 5:42 pm | Reply
  6. Ope

    I just want Manchester United fans to know that the reason they were not sacking managers like Chelsea was because of Ferguson. Let's see how many they will have int he next 5 years.

    February 26, 2014 at 5:54 pm | Reply
  7. manolo

    All the talk about how bad united played... No one even mentioned how well Olympiakos played... and yes there is more to Greece than pitta and moussaka!

    February 26, 2014 at 6:51 pm | Reply
  8. Anthony Glynn

    Mr Lineker, it's not 'mediocrity' – it is just a fact that Olympiakos played better and they played fiercely. So deal with it. That's the beauty of sport.

    February 27, 2014 at 6:14 am | Reply
  9. FrankDLaw

    Where did it all go wrong? Its a no brainer! United has just violated a very fundamental principle of human resource management. Take a look at my post on this issue last week and tell me that my predictions are not coming to pass; viz:

    "In truth RVP is just fed up, like the rest of the team! Now he sees the club pandering up to Rooney, whose contribution in the last season was patchy at best, giving him a new £300,000 per week contract. It appears that loyalty doesn't pay for the players. Disloyalty instead, gets rewarded.
    This will all end in tears for United! The upheaval, disharmony and dissension in the dressing room will tear the team apart!

    Woodward and Moyes, be prepared for every player in the team, starting with RVP to knock on your doors asking for wage adjustments! If not, there'll be plenty of sulking on the field with some players missing clear open goals! Some will even score own goals! I've seen it all before. Transfer targets will also be asking for £300,000 per week. Can United afford it? The club's wage bill will go through the roof! This is the beginning of the end..."

    I've been defending Moyes for the past few months but his handling of Rooney is the straw that has broken the camel's back, I have to concede! Sad, but this fundamental error in management will tear the team apart!

    February 28, 2014 at 4:01 am | Reply
  10. ken usman igenegbai

    man utd is a club with high profiled players but the challenge lies in the manager( moyes) as he has never won a major trophy as a coach and such coach is not needed in man utd

    February 28, 2014 at 7:36 am | Reply
  11. Muhammad

    Look guys, no one will be a winner all the times, give Moyes and his entire team some time, they may end up with good results; though not this season. Remember, it is not easy to replace sir Alex just over night. My candid observations as a GUNNER

    February 28, 2014 at 11:27 am | Reply
  12. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Wishing Manchester United footballers and fans success in the return leg at OT.

    March 1, 2014 at 6:24 pm | Reply
  13. randy ncham

    am a maunited fan but commom MOYES you are a disgrace i cant really remember a shot on target from united and your tactics are just awful if you want a winger get one stop pushing Mata to the flanks ,,,i have never thought of this all my life as a united supporter but Moyes has a very small mentality for a huge club<<<<show him the door

    March 2, 2014 at 9:17 am | Reply
  14. pramok

    In todays world of soccer, if the result is not clear and quick, both players and the managers are changed in time to avoid both commercial value and fans based standings within the world of sports. Man.Utd. like back in early 70s have to be broken down AMD rebuilt all over again to survive the competitive EPL.


    March 6, 2014 at 6:56 pm | Reply
  15. Jobin

    to be honest, I'm a Chelsea fan but seeing Man U fall doesaffect me b'coz they were our rivals. Man City can never become Man U. Moyes needs time to rebuild the squad. Fergie left the team with a over rated team of crap players. I dont know why he bought RVP. I think Man U should get rid off him b'coz the team has to many strikers(4) atm. He is 30. Moyes needs to generate a new squad from the academy itself like Fergie did when he brought in Becks,Giggs,Scholes,Keane, Nevile Bros etc. The team lack new faces and freshness. The only reason they won the EPL last season b'coz the manger was FERGIE.

    March 12, 2014 at 11:51 am | Reply
  16. Jayberd

    I am a Manchester United Fan and I do not know what the big deal is! Yes the shoes of Ferguson is hard to fill but if you look back, during Ferguson's reign Manchester did not win every cup of every year. Moyes is just getting settled in. I still have hope in ManU and even though it seems like the ship is sinking now, when the balance returns and the waters are calmer and ManU is back to glory, I'm sorry for those who jumped overboard. Give Moyes some time to figure it out!

    March 14, 2014 at 3:46 pm | Reply
  17. luisaraujo

    With the exit of Ferguson I expected a transition period. I wasn't looking for a trophy this season. What I have seen, though, is downright frightening. There is a sudden lack of spark and belief that has been the hallmark of United performances since I began watching football. I was prepared to give Moyes a chance. His approach seemed solid and Everton was a side that was structured, if not exciting. Having seen the performances of United and Everton this season I can only deduce that Moyes is turning the Reds into Everton while Roberto Martinez has brought his exciting style to Everton. That the two teams are side by side in the table belies the divergent paths that they seem to be on.

    As a Man U fan, though, all I can do is continue to support, even if it is painful to watch.

    March 16, 2014 at 12:31 am | Reply
  18. Chris

    Fergie killed ManU by ordaining Moyes on countryman sentiments. Bet he'll want the board to stick with failure called DM. Poor selections, poor tactics, layback attitude when game's on. Just a shame! Imagine buying Mata when you have no place for him to play just to satisfy the people asking him to buy. Can somebody wake the board up and rescue the team from SAF and his anointed son?

    March 19, 2014 at 11:44 am | Reply
  19. Duval

    Over 24 hours since United won 3 – 0 to win the tie, but no report or mention anywhere on CNN. Still got the report on Llverpool defeat and others though.

    March 20, 2014 at 10:08 pm | Reply
    • garymorleyCNN

      Hi, this was up soon after the final whistle

      March 21, 2014 at 6:41 pm | Reply
  20. My thoughts.

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    March 27, 2014 at 7:14 pm | Reply
  21. clive obrien

    As a United fan for 54 years ,i think the appointment of david everton is totally wrong . His whole managerial ambition has been to finish above liverpool in the league . United under ferguson were untouchable .We needed a mouriniho or guardola to take us forward . We are going backward fast .United will not return to glory under this man . I fear another leeds senario

    March 27, 2014 at 8:24 pm | Reply
  22. monty

    All these slating comments,man united are a team in transition,the current squads majority are finished and not upto it.fergie got the last steady ounce of silverware out of them,.moyes needs time to build and be given funds..when you compare the way man city ,chelsea,real madrid.barcalona,bayern munich have spent on players compared to united..its plainly obvious why theres no success this season.oh and since olympiacos results have got better.bayerm,aston vulla etc..ggmu

    April 3, 2014 at 1:01 pm | Reply
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    July 4, 2014 at 1:28 pm | Reply

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