Olympiakos vs. Manchester United: 6 Things We Learned

Paul AnsorgeFeatured ColumnistFebruary 25, 2014

Olympiakos vs. Manchester United: 6 Things We Learned

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    Thanassis Stavrakis/Associated Press

    Olympiakos vs. Manchester United turned out to be a painful affair for United fans.

    As the Athenians made light work of United's experienced back four, and United offered next to nothing in reply, David Moyes' disastrous season was compounded by yet another broken record: Manchester United have never before lost to Greek opposition in the Champions League.

    Whilst there were many aspects of the defeat which did not provide new information—the lack of effectiveness in midfield, the hit-and-miss quality of United's wingers and David Moyes adopting a defensive stance away from home in Europe—here are six things we learned from watching another awful performance from Manchester United.

Playing Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic Creates a Tactical Problem

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    Happier Times
    Happier TimesAlex Livesey/Getty Images

    A significant tactical problem is caused when Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic play together these days. Because neither of them have the same turn of pace they once did, the whole back line plays deeper to compensate.

    As a result, United's midfielders are drawn deeper to receive possession.

    A look at the heat maps of Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick (per Squawka.com) demonstrates how much of their activity took place in United's half. This is made all the more significant by the fact that the FourFourTwo.com Stats Zone app indicates that United had over 60 percent of possession in the game.

    If United had been under continual pressure, the positional data would be easily explicable. However, given that they had so much of the ball, it is clear that it is a tactical issue, rather than a reactive one.

    Generally speaking, this positioning results in the need for longer passing, as midfield and attack become separated, which often results in the turnover of possession.

United's Long Passing Game Continues to Be a Relatively Ineffective Weapon

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    This map of United's long passes (per Squawka.com) shows a couple of interesting things.

    Firstly, United gave the ball away a lot from long passes.

    Secondly, they tended to give the ball away from long passes up the field. The map of completed passes crisscrosses the pitch, and the map of incomplete passes is full of long balls up the pitch, which did not find their intended target.

    As with the previous slide, this is partly a consequence of how deep the midfield came to receive possession from defense.

    It was part of the reason for United's lack of penetration, too.

Wayne Rooney Has Not Yet Lived Up to His New Contract

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    The goal at Crystal Palace on the weekend was impressive, but Wayne Rooney's performance against Olympiakos was poor.

    With only two of seven attempted tackles successful (per Squawka.com), one shot (of any description), and no key passes, Rooney's contribution was neither meaningful in attack, nor particularly helpful in defense.

    Rooney has a long time to prove himself worthy of his new deal but showed little evidence of that worth tonight.

Even David Moyes Can't Blame Luck for This One

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Given United managed just seven shots and only one on target (per Squawka.com), even David Moyes cannot blame luck for United's performance.

    Speaking to BBC Radio Five Live after the game, Moyes said "That's the worst we've played in Europe, we didn't deserve to get anything. The players are hurting." (h/t @shamoonhafez on twitter)

    For a moment, it looked like Olympiakos' first goal may have been a fortunate deflection, but it turned out to have been an ingenious flick by Alejandro Domínguez.

    There were no injuries to rue on the night, no decisive poor refereeing decisions, simply a lacklustre and ineffective performance.

The Pressure on David Moyes Is Dramatically Increasing

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    The pressure on David Moyes has reached a new level.

    He would be well-advised to avoid tomorrow morning's papers. A selection of the back pages can be seen here.

    Wednesday’s Daily Express back page – “That’s Gunner cost you” #tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers #Olympiacos #mufc pic.twitter.com/n4rJ0fT4X9

    — Nick Sutton (@suttonnick) February 25, 2014


     Wednesday's Daily Mirror back page - "Greek Clods" #tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers #Olympiacos #mufc pic.twitter.com/954Vdj9BOU

    — Nick Sutton (@suttonnick) February 25, 2014


     Wednesday's Sun back page - "Mousacka for Moyes" #tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers #Olympiacos #mufc pic.twitter.com/BjnEwdTap9

    — Nick Sutton (@suttonnick) February 25, 2014


     Wednesday’s Daily Telegraph Sport “Clueless, aimless and hopeless” #tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers #Olympiacos #mufc pic.twitter.com/zg9vWZ9saS

    — Nick Sutton (@suttonnick) February 25, 2014


    These headlines have taken on a new intensity in their depiction of Moyes' position. The previous accepted wisdom—that David Moyes would be given the time Sir Alex Ferguson called for him to get in May of last year—must surely be called into question, by the depths to which United have sunk under his stewardship.


Lisa Carrick Will Take You on If You Criticise Michael Carrick

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    Nathan Cox/Getty Images

    Roy Keane said of Michael Carrick's post match interview, broadcast on ITV “The interview was flat, just like United's performance.” (h/t The Metro)

    Lisa Carrick stood by her man, in a tweet, since deleted, which read “Roy Keane what a **** says anything to provoke a reaction . That's all .. Done ...”

    If Mrs. Carrick will stick up for Michael in the face of Roy Keane, it is probably best not to mess with her.