Manchester United manager David Moyes admitted that he had been taken aback by the abject quality of his team's performance in their shock 2-0 Uefa Champions League loss to Olympiakos.
The English champions must attempt to overturn a two-goal deficit in the home leg of the last 16 tie on March 19 after a limp display at the Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus in Tuesday’s first leg.
Olympiakos were good value for their victory, secured through goals in each half from Alejandro Dominguez and Joel Campbell, who is on loan at the club from Arsenal, but in United they came across surprisingly generous opponents.
Careless in defence and short of ideas in midfield, United failed to muster a single shot on target during the game and did not seriously threaten until Robin van Persie shot over the bar in the 82nd minute.
“I’m just surprised,” a shellshocked Moyes told journalists afterwards.
“I didn’t see that level of performance coming. I didn’t see that. I still didn’t think we were necessarily two goals worse off in the game.
“We have a shot which gets deflected (for Dominguez’s goal), but we didn’t offer enough on the night to create a goal, really.”
Democratic in his criticism of his players, Moyes added: “We never really got to grips with things. To a man, you could hardly pick anybody out (who played well).
“We just didn’t perform well tonight (Tuesday). We came into the game in good form, with a good mindset, but it didn’t show tonight.”
The defeat, United’s first against a Greek team, was the latest sorry chapter in a season of misery for Moyes and his faltering side.
Knocked out of both domestic cup competitions, United trail Liverpool by 11 points in the battle for a top-four finish in the Premier League and face the stark prospect of missing out on a place in the Champions League for the first time since 1995.
They last overturned a two-goal deficit in a European tie in 1984, when they came from 2-0 down to beat Barcelona in the Cup Winners’ Cup, but Moyes believes the club can harness the mystique of their famous stadium to turn the tie around in the second leg.
Former captain Keane seethes at ‘flat’ United
Former Manchester United captain Roy Keane took a shot at Michael Carrick and warned that some players will have no future at the club after the Red Devils suffered the painful loss to Olympiacos.
Keane also claimed manager David Moyes would have been “shocked at the lack of quality” in the team he inherited from Sir Alex Ferguson last summer, and ridiculed the theory that the Premier League is the strongest in the world.
Speaking on ITV, Keane reacted sharply to a post-match interview from Carrick, who succeeded him in the United midfield in the mid-2000s, in which his demeanour appeared jolted by what he had experienced.
“That interview was just like the performance: flat. He should say a bit more, have a bit more urgency even in his interview,” Keane said.
“That just reflected United’s performance tonight: flat, with no urgency.
“They keep saying, ‘Ah, well, next game, next game’. For some of them there won’t be another game for them. That’s the reality.”
Keane was an onfield motivator in his playing days but he fears there is insufficient quality in the current United squad to make a serious impact in European football.
“I don’t think any of us could have predicted that,” he said after United’s miserable surrender in the Athens district of Piraeus.
“They (United) just never turned up. They (Olympiacos) were very, very good and technically they were better than United tonight.”
Pressed on where United’s problems this season have arisen from, Keane said: “There’s a number of things: new manager, new ideas. United have missed out on some players over the past two years.
“There’s some players playing tonight for Man United who just aren’t showing enough quality.”
He added: “I think United need six top quality players.
“I would think David Moyes has been shocked. I think when he went into United in the summer he probably looked at the players and was expecting great things.
“Privately he’s probably been shocked at the lack of quality that he’s working with.”
United, Manchester City and Arsenal have all now suffered 2-0 first-leg defeats in the last 16, with Chelsea looking to avoid suffering such a disappointing outcome when they face Galatasaray on Wednesday.
Keane claims expectation of Premier League success in Europe is misguided.
“We’ve been brainwashed by this ‘Premier League is the best league in the world’ (talk),” Keane said.
“Nonsense. It’s the best brand, but we’ve seen over the past few weeks with a lot of the English teams struggling that these teams have fallen behind the top teams in Europe, and United in particular.”
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