David Moyes was far from happy with his Manchester United players, despite Tuesday’s 1-0 Champions League triumph over Shakhtar Donetsk.
Moyes watched as yet another visiting team created more chances than the Old Trafford hosts, although Phil Jones’ 67th-minute winner secured top spot in Group A for United.
The victory should not cloud another poor performance from the Premier League champions, and Moyes admitted he needed some stern words at half-time, per David McDonnell of the Daily Mirror:
To be honest, it’s been that way since I came here. We need to win matches and the players responded well to that encouragement.
We passed the ball much better after we had given it away terribly in the first-half and that’s not like us.
Moyes even compared United’s midweek win to the two recent losses against Everton and Newcastle, insisting United's level of performance had not improved following those setbacks:
I thought there wasn’t much difference to the Everton and Newcastle games. Tonight we got the goal. In those other games, Everton and Newcastle got the goal.
United’s European campaign has provided a necessary distraction from domestic matters, where they have all but surrendered their league crown before Christmas.
However, those who watched United beat Shakhtar, or struggle in games with Group A’s bottom club Real Sociedad, will know a European hiding is coming unless the Red Devils improve quickly.
Shakhtar had 17 shots at goal compared to United’s 10, according to ESPN FC stats. The English side were also limited to just two strikes on target.
Of the starting XI, only Alexander Buttner and Adnan Januzaj would be considered inexperienced as Moyes fielded plenty of first-team stars such as David De Gea, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs, Jones and Wayne Rooney.
Yet the first half should have seen United return to the changing room facing a deficit. They barely put two passes together in a woeful opening 45 minutes, with ESPN FC reporting that one fan yelled from the stands “get a midfield in there.”
Shakhtar aren’t the first side this season to register more shots than the home team at Old Trafford. Southampton had 18 efforts to United’s 12, while Newcastle had nine to United’s eight.
For Moyes to say “that’s not like us” actually does not ring true of the Red Devils under his stewardship. On current form, if United draw the wrong side in the last 16—the likes of Borussia Dortmund are a potential rival—such performances could result in embarrassment.
United now travel to Aston Villa knowing anything other than victory will not be good enough in the Premier League.
Right now, Moyes’ men don’t even look confident of finishing in the top four this season. If that proves the case, this current Champions League adventure will be their last for the foreseeable future.