By Ed Osmond
MANCHESTER United manager David Moyes was in defiant mood on the eve of his side’s Champions League round of 16 second leg against Olympiakos.
The struggling Premier League champions must tonight overturn a 2-0 deficit from the first game in Greece to keep alive their last remaining hope of lifting a trophy this season.
The demoralising 3-0 home Premier League defeat by Liverpool on Sunday increased the pressure on Moyes who has endured a troubled start to his United reign after replacing Sir Alex Ferguson last year.
“When you lose in the fashion we did, and to one of our biggest rivals, it’s obviously a big disappointment,” Moyes told a news conference yesterday.
“As soon as it was over we’ve concentrated on this game. We told the players the only thing that matters is this game.”
Moyes said he did not feel his job was under any threat.
“My future has not changed one bit,” Moyes said. “I have a great job, I know the direction I want to go in. We know we have put ourselves in a poor position but we have belief.
“The biggest assurance is the club will let me get on with the job. I have a six-year contract. This club does not work on short-term vision, it works on a long-term vision.
“The support inside Old Trafford has been phenomenal. The first thing I mentioned to the players is we need to start giving something back. We need to work together to make it a night to be remembered. We will leave nothing behind.”
If history was the only deciding factor then United would be highly fancied to overturn their 2-0 first leg deficit and reach the quarter-finals.
But the reality for Moyes and his stuttering team is that present form, rather than past successes, will have a far bigger influence at Old Trafford.
Misfiring United, who last failed to qualify for the Champions League 18 years ago, have no guarantees at all of achieving their aim against the Greeks who have just won their domestic title for the fourth successive season, the 16th time in 18 campaigns they have ended as champions and the 41st in all.
Their head-to-head record, and the Greek side’s woeful record on the road against English clubs, does offer hope.
Until Olympiakos triumphed in Athens on February 25, United had won all four of the previous matches between the clubs.
They have also won all five matches they have played against Greek clubs at home while Olympiakos have lost all 11 of the matches they have played in England.
While United have been in the unfamiliar position of looking up at the leading pack in the Premier League, the Piraeus club have been head and shoulders above their domestic rivals this season.
Spanish coach Michel is not getting carried away with their chances of reaching the last eight for the first time since 1999.
“We aim to do what we always do and that is concentrate on our own game,” he said.
“We know our opponents very well and we know that 2-0 is not a serious advantage. We need to score to make sure we make it difficult for them as we know that United have a strong desire to turn the tie around.”