Manchester United’s horrendous season under David Moyes is nearly beyond repair, and the sharpened claws of the media are beginning to prey on the utter misery that surrounds Old Trafford.
Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat to Olympiakos leaves United in total crisis. Only once in 22 years has a team rallied from 2-0 down in a Champions League knockout tie, per the Telegraph’s Ben Bloom.
“Humiliated” said the Daily Mail after the reigning English champions were dominated by relative European minnows. “Clueless” said the Telegraph.
Added to Capital One Cup and FA Cup embarrassments, United’s one remaining hope of silverware is almost dead and buried. In the league, meanwhile, they will do well just to book Europa League football next season, and it’s questionable whether they would even want it.
The Sun placed the blame firmly at the feet of the manager, leaning on a favourite Greek dish to suggest Moyes’ sacking could be on the menu in the not-too-distant future:
The Daily Mirror also played on the Greek theme, avoiding the temptation to go with “Greek Tragedy:”
The Mail’s headline was rather more direct:
Moyes has to take much of the blame for what United fans are seeing. His squad is largely the same as the one that won last season’s league title under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Does Moyes deserve more time?
If those players aren't giving 100 percent, that is a culture Moyes has failed to correct. The fact he spent £27.5 million on a player—Marouane Fellaini—who wasn't even trusted to play in Greece highlights a separate flaw on the part of the manager.
Tactically, United look totally without direction. They produced one shot on target all night—per ESPN FC—Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney looked like strangers rather than strike partners, and the Dutchman was left to complain to Dutch channel NOS, per Graeme Yorke of the Daily Mail:
Our fellow players are sometimes occupying the spaces I want to play in.
And when I see that, it makes it difficult for me to come to those spaces as well. So that forces me to adjust my runs, based on the position of my fellow players. And, unfortunately, they are often playing in my zones. I think that's a shame.
Those same players—van Persie, Rooney, Ashley Young, Danny Welbeck and Antonio Valencia—all knew where to run last season. Tactics have changed, tempo has faded, and the Telegraph summed United up:
Gary Lineker, former England forward and current Match of the Day host for the BBC, was among those who did their best to put United’s poor performance into context.
This is a United outfit who have lost at home to Swansea, West Brom, Newcastle and Everton this term. They have also drawn at home to bottom club Fulham, yet Lineker felt Tuesday’s display was as bad as it has been:
MUFC have had the odd bad day over the years, but I cannot recall such an abject, hopeless, forlorn performance. And against such mediocrity— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) February 25, 2014
Oliver Holt of the Daily Mirror agreed with Lineker’s sentiments and highlighted the lack of leadership at Old Trafford.
Wayne Rooney, a player who has twice wanted to leave the club, recently got rewarded with a £300,000-per-week contract. Captain Nemanja Vidic, meanwhile, is busier negotiating his exit to Inter Milan than facing the media:
Even in the context of this desperate, desperate season, that is the worst I have seen Manchester United play for some time. Shockingly poor— Oliver Holt (@OllieHolt22) February 25, 2014
Minor point: United captain should be standing up and doing the post-match interview. But then this is a United captain who's on his bike— Oliver Holt (@OllieHolt22) February 25, 2014
Former United youth player and BBC pundit Robbie Savage claimed United were actually lucky that they were handed what was perceived to be an easy draw in the last-16:
Some players let the shirt down against Olympiakos - no question. The performance was desperately poor.
It is a good job they were not playing Barcelona or Bayern Munich because the result could have been a lot worse.
There always remains a window for humour, though, no matter how bad things get for United, or for Moyes for that matter.
ESPN analyst Tommy Smyth found a perfect way to put the boot into the maligned United manager, who was appointed Ferguson’s successor despite a distinct lack of European experience, no history of silverware, and even a reputation for playing boring football:
I was asked how much time should Moyes get .My answer about 5 years for taking money under false pretenses.— Tommy Smyth (@TommySmythESPN) February 26, 2014
United fans may only think it can get better from here. But then that’s probably what Moyes has been thinking all season.