Manchester United's Record Against Greek Teams and Their Chances vs Olympiacos

Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentFebruary 24, 2014

MANCHESTER - OCTOBER 1: Ryan Giggs of Man Utd scores the first goal during the Manchester United v Olympiakos UEFA Champions League phase one, Group F match at Old Trafford on October 1, 2002 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

David Moyes has been fond of saying his Manchester United team haven't had any luck this season.

Whether it's a deflected goal or an ill-timed injury, fortune has not favoured United, according to their manager.

But he can have had no complaints when United were drawn with Olympiacos in the second round of the Champions League.

Of course, they made their own luck by finishing top of their group. 

Manchester City and Arsenal, who both finished second, have been pushed to the brink to expulsion from the competition by Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 01:  New signings (L-R) Larnell Cole, Kostas Mitroglou and John Heitinga of Fulham walk onto the pitch before the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Southampton at Craven Cottage on February 1, 2014 in London, Engl
Ian Walton/Getty Images

But United have still been fortunate. Chelsea got Galatasaray. Borussia Dortmund's reward for finishing top of a group that included Arsenal and Napoli was a date with Zenit St Petersburg.

That said, Olympiacos are still 20 points clear at the top of the Greek Super League. They have been beaten just twice all season, home and away to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, although top scorer Kostas Mitroglou has since departed for Fulham.

United have played Olympiacos four times in the Champions League, winning all four, keeping three clean sheets and conceding just twice.

United won 3-0 at Old Trafford in October 2001 and 4-0 at home a year later. 

Greece's other team, Panathinaikos, haven't fared much better. In four games, United have won three and drawn one thanks to Paul Scholes' 90th-minute equaliser in March 2001.

7 Mar 2001: Paul Scholes of Manchester United celebrates scoring with Roy Keane during the match between Panathinaikos and Manchester United in Group A of the UEFA Champions League at the Olympic Stadium, Athens, Greece. Digital Image.  Mandatory Credit:L
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Still, there aren't many other countries that have proved such happy hunting grounds.

The tie with Olympiacos is one United are expected to win. But fans have learned very quickly that nothing is guaranteed this season.

West Bromwich Albion, Everton and Newcastle don't usually win at Old Trafford. Stoke never beat United. But not anymore.

But even without the cup-tied Juan Mata, United should have enough to progress to the quarter-finals.

And that gives them a chance of glorious failure—against Barcelona, perhaps, or Real Madrid—or even go on to win it.

It might seem strange to suggest that a team sixth in the table can win the Champions League. But, as Moyes pointed out to the Manchester Evening News, both Liverpool and Chelsea won it after finishing outside the top four.

It isn’t always the best teams that get to the final in Europe. Liverpool in 2005 gives us hope, but in any cup competition you always have a chance.

I knew it was going to be a hard competition before it started. Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid and PSG are all top clubs.

Everybody wants to win it and we’ll try to do it. I never said we would or we can but we’ll be in there.

United have played some of their best football this season in Europe, and the same team came within a whisker of knocking out Real Madrid last year.

With Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie fit and scoring goals—both were on target in the win over Crystal Palace—Moyes will feel United can give anyone a game.

Whether that, combined with a bit of luck, is enough to give themselves a chance of winning the European trophy for a fourth time is a question that will be answered in time.

But it starts with a trip to Olympiacos—to Greece—on Tuesday. 

It's a little bit of luck to start a journey that might require a lot more.