Is Manchester United's UCL Passage Assured Now Mitroglou Has Left Olympiakos?

Rob Blanchette@@_Rob_BFeatured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2014

Greece's Kostas Mitroglou, left, celebrates after scoring the third goal of his team against Romania during their World Cup qualifying playoff first leg soccer match at the Karaiskaki stadium in the port of Piraeus, near Athens, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Thanassis Stavrakis/Associated Press

When Olympiakos was drawn from the hat as the opponents for Manchester United in the first knockout stage of the Champions League, many fans drew a relaxed breath and sighed. 

The 2013-14 season has been the hardest for the supporters of the Red Devils for obvious reasons, as everything domestically collapses around them.

The Premier League trophy will soon be on its travels away from Old Trafford to either London or just down the road, and that is a bitter pill to swallow when you have not even pretended to defend the title. 

So, it seems slightly odd that the biggest competition of them all should offer the most relief to a football club in dire straits. 

Martin Meissner/Associated Press

Olympiakos are certainly not the most feared team on mainland Europe. They are a decent team who had one fireball of a striker up front: Konstantinos Mitroglou, their Greek international striker.

Mitroglou has smashed 16 goals in only 14 matches this season, per, and has been the driving force of the club this season.

But now he's gone.

Mitroglou joined Fulham on deadline day for £12 million and is preparing to make his debut for the London club, per Dave Kidd's report for The Mirror

So, with the prolific attacker's exit, opting for a possible career in the Championship rather than elite European competition, does this mean United are assured to make the quarter-finals?

There is a danger here that David Moyes' team could fall into some kind of mythical comfort zone. 

United's form has been disastrous this season, with them not even being able to hang on for a home victory against Mitroglou's new club, who prop up the basement of the Premier League.

Should Man Utd take their Greek opponents lightly, they could become the biggest shock exit of this season's tournament. 

But in theory, it would not be a shock.

Olympiakos enter the tie showing perfection in their form. According to, they have been victorious in their last six games, scoring 17 times. 

Their Champions League formation could also give United issues. 

Olympiakos average formation, selection and ratings for the Champions League group stage.
Olympiakos average formation, selection and ratings for the Champions League group

Moyes' team's weakness is still very much in the centre of his midfield, and the fact that Olympiakos play a 4-2-3-1 could suffocate United's core. Even without Mitroglou, they are still scoring goals and will look to take advantage of United's poor fortune.

This match is by no means a forgone conclusion, and it might end up being one of the Greek club's greatest days in the Champions League.

Jon Super/Associated Press

United could lose to any club the way things stand, so an organised and motivated underdog is not exactly the type of team they want to be playing right now.

The Reds showed that they can stay disciplined against bigger opposition. At Stamford Bridge, they looked balanced and busy and almost stole the victory. 

But against the so called smaller clubs, they have looked vulnerable and beatable. 

Olympiakos will provide a stern test for United. Moyes will have to show a better grasp of tactics than he has done recently against Stoke and Fulham.

If he does not, it could really be the end of United's season in just the blink of an eye, and also the possible end of his tenure.

The Champions League is the manager's last bite of the cherry this year.

Moyes needs to make sure he does not choke on the stone.