Manchester United: Examining Their Lifeless Performance vs. Olympiacos

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Manchester United: Examining Their Lifeless Performance vs. Olympiacos
Petros Giannakouris/Associated Press
This wasn't the only time Nemanja Vidic was beaten vs Olympiacos.

Like their English counterparts Arsenal and Manchester City, Manchester United also lost the first leg of their Round of 16 Champions League tie by a score of 2-0.

While Manchester City and Arsenal were both dominated in terms of possession, they had nine and eight shots respectively, and showed signs of life for periods of the match, making their opponents a bit uneasy.

Meanwhile, Manchester United controlled 60 percent of the possession tally against Olympiacos, but it was undoubtedly their Greek opponents who controlled the match.

Their hard work was rewarded by Alejandro Dominguez's flick in the 38th minute:

gif via Fansided
Alejandro Dominguez's deflection was nice, but could've been prevented from happening with greater on-ball pressure.

Playing Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick in the center of the pitch, United's match was characterized by an utter lack of creativity and energy. There was no movement of the ball from United's players, no apparent tactical plan or direction, and very little composure from United's players with the ball at their feet.

United were able to hold the ball for long periods of time, but failed to penetrate the Olympiacos half or record more than one shot on goal.

Fox Sports 1's Eric Wynalda described United's play as "walkabout," a term that does not seem to pervade with the intensity needed to advance in the Champions League.

Meanwhile, United were equally as bad on the defensive end. Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand failed to close down defenders with any urgency, which led to United giving up two goals sparked from long-distance attempts.

picture via WhoScored
This positional report shows that Smalling played like a winger much of the game and neglected his defensive duties.

Chris Smalling, playing to the right of his natural center-back position, was also abysmal, constantly giving away the ball and getting caught out of position.

 

Although he did provide Robin van Persie with a golden chance to cut Olympiacos' lead in half, his crosses also went wayward for much of the match.

 

 When analyzing United's poor performance, there should be little tolerance for the lack of effort and heart that was displayed by the Reds. It's one thing for Moyes to have a poor tactical plan; it's another for him to fail to even motivate his team to play well.

Beside their inexplicable lack of effort, other factors caused United's terrible showing. 

One was certainly Moyes' head-scratching squad selection, which has become an all-too-familiar problem for United fans this season. While he was forced to start liabilities Tom Cleverley and Rio Ferdinand due to injuries in the midfield and defense, he had more leeway in choosing his attackers. 

Danny Welbeck, Shinji Kagawa, and Adnan Januzaj were all absent from the XI, with Antonio Valencia and Ashely Young being selected in what ESPNFC's Musa Okwonga called a "cautious" lineup.

This led to a very uninspired United attack in Athens, with the first sign of effective buildup play coming in the 90th minute and ending with a blocked Patrice Evra cross.

In addition, United were extremely sloppy with the ball at their feet, conceding possession far to often, and produced little confidence even with their completed passes that were often carelessly and shoddily delivered.

Aside from United's shortcomings, though, Olympiacos did play a stellar game, with their tally doubled in the 54th minute by Joel Campbell. The Karaiskaki Stadium is also a tough place to play, and it is never easy to get a result as the visitors against a top-class side.

gif via 101GreatGoals
A great shot from Joel Campbell, but who's marking him?

In the end, however, United have no excuse for their awful showing.

They have the talent and the experience to beat a lot of teams when they're on the top of their game.

But at the moment, it seems as though they are lacking something far more important: desire.

All stats and info via ESPNFC.

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