Man United’s most important game of the season by a long chalk is coming up. In many ways, the whole of United’s season now boils down to the home return leg against Greek Champions Olympiakos.
The Champions League is now the only possibility of salvaging some shred of credibility from what we can only politely describe as a “transitional” season. There are other words – but we want to be polite here. And, let’s face it, even the possibility of a longer run at the Champions League will most probably unravel at Old Trafford on Wednesday March 19th.
And in fact, that’s what the odds are currently telling us. As things stand, Olympiakos are 2/5 favourites to qualify with United odds against at 7/4. These might be generous odds if you fancy a bet on United and if you’re an optimist – because if you aren’t, then there’s really hardly anything left to salvage before the new season starts.
The truth is that if Manchester United fail to beat Olympiakos by 2-0 (and progress on penalties) or better, this season will have exceeded even the most pessimistic of predictions under the stewardship of David Moyes. Even qualifying for the Europa League is now in doubt and most Man United fans simply aren’t interested in this competition anyway after 20 years’ worth of Champions League appearances including two wins. The best that can be said for the Europa League is that it will help the team gel in European competition with what will hopefully be some new young talent as we build towards the following season back in the cream of the champions League. Nothing else will really do and David Moyes will know that better than anyone.
The alternative view is that the Europa is a relatively worthless distraction from Premier League success which is what the fans want to see – alongside the Champions League of course.
But the weird thing is that the squad that did so well a year ago is basically the same one we have today with a couple of additions.
So the mission is now clear for the current season. The only way of salvaging anything is for a great result against Olympiakos. But perhaps it’s the way United will play on the night that will be of greatest importance to the fans. Even the most ardent United optimist wouldn’t be surprised to see them fail to progress to the last eight after the 2-0 loss in Athens. But all fans want to see an appropriately heroic epic of a match in trying to overcome the Greeks. If United draw 0-0 having thrown everything at the Greeks and hit the post and bar etc., a number of times – then that will suffice.
If, on the other hand, we get a similar damp squib of a performance to the one we witnessed in Athens, then a few fundamental questions really will need to be answered.