Struggling Moyes must find a way
Tom McDermott assesses the intensifying pressure on David Moyes and considers the importance of tonight's Champions League clash for the beleaguered boss.
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The pressure on David Moyes increased to new heights after Manchester United's 3-0 home defeat to Liverpool on Sunday.
It's not going to get any easier for the Scot either as this evening the current Premier League champions face Olympiacos in the second leg of their last-16 Champions League game and Moyes' men must overturn a 2-0 first-leg defeat against the Greek side if they are to progress to the quarter-final stage of the competition.
No United side has managed to overturn a two-goal defecit in Europe since March 1984 when they did so against a Barcelona team which included Diego Maradona.
If recent reports are true then it's the first of three games David Moyes will have to save United's season and his own career at the club.
The former Everton manager's precarious position as manager is believed to now lie in the hands of the supporters, who until this point have backed him.
It's not beyond the realms of possibility that United will win this game but still be dumped out of the competition, maybe even on away goals.
The majority of fans certainly won't be expecting a victory especially after the first-leg humiliation in Athens but Moyes has to start somewhere if he has any hope of seeing the start of the next transfer window.
United's run since the beginning of the year has seen seven defeats in 14 matches and with no sign of that run improving it's anyone's guess as to which side Moyes will send out and how they will perform.
Strangely, the absence of Juan Mata (cup-tied) may come as a welcome relief to Moyes because he has struggled to find a way of getting the best out of the Spaniard during his brief time at the club.
Danny Welbeck could step in and provide some much needed legs from wide areas and if Shinji Kagawa is given a rare start then he could be the man to find him.
Defensively, Moyes' Everton teams were solid and filed under the 'hard to beat' category.
He must now install the same defensive confidence in his United side while encouraging them to want the ball and express themselves in attacking areas.
Marouane Fellaini is a player Moyes certainly knows well but hasn't been used in the role he enjoyed at Everton.
United fans might not want to see the direct approach but if it gains progression to the next round then it might be worth sticking the Belgian further forward if the game isn't going the home side's way.
Much has been said and written about senior players such as Nemaja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs this week too and it may now be time for Moyes to turn to experience in key areas in order to win games.
Olympiacos come in to the game with complete confidence after retaining the Greek Super League at the weekend.
Striker Javier Saviola is expected to feature and could make his 100th appearance in European club competition.
Managed by former Real Madrid and Spain midfielder Michel, United could have faced a far tougher test but the visitors hold the advantage and will fancy scoring an away goal.
Looking further forward, the question for many United supporters is whether Sir Alex Ferguson's choice as manager can be trusted with significant transfer funds in the summer.
This is new territory for the club and people are waiting for the empire to crumble further.
Under Ferguson, United would have dips in form but you could always see a way out and more often than not the players would respond.
At the moment few people can see how things will improve but Moyes must find a way of winning tonight, whatever it takes.
In the long-term it might not save his job but it may just buy him some more time even if that's the next game at West Ham United at the weekend.