Manchester United kick off their Champions League campaign against Bayer Leverkusen at Old Trafford this evening, the first time United enter the competition with a different manager other than Sir Alex Ferguson.
The game also marks David Moyes’ debut in the competition proper, as the former Everton manager’s only previous experience in the competition dates back to the 2005-06 season when the Toffees were knocked out in the third qualifying round by Villareal, who would then go on to reach the semifinals that season.
Moyes’ inexperience at this level has casted a doubt over United’s chances of success in Europe this season, but the Scotsman has revealed he relishes the opportunity to go toe-to-toe against Europe’s elite.
“I am really looking forward to the Champions League,” said Moyes in yesterday’s press conference.
“I have been there with Everton but we didn’t quite make the group stages.
“This is something different. I’m now managing a club which is used to getting close to the final stages and I will try and do that again.”
Sir Alex Ferguson placed huge emphasis on the Champions League and the former United manager would have undoubtedly passed on the message to his successor, who was also reminded of the importance of continuing the club’s European tradition by the man who scored twice in the 1968 final, Sir Bobby Charlton.
“It was a really important moment for me when Sir Bobby said he wanted to see me in my office,” said Moyes of Sir Bobby’s visit to his office earlier this summer.
“Everybody, when they see Bobby Charlton, is in awe of him.
“He was an incredibly humble man and he explained what it is like to be at Manchester United and what a Manchester United manager should be like.
“I will keep what he said to myself but there is a way to do things at this club. I understand that and I will try to uphold those traditions.”
The United manager admitted a group containing Shakthar Donetsk, Real Sociedad and Bayer Leverkusen could prove to be extremely trickier for United, an opinion he said was shared by Sir Alex Ferguson himself.
However, Moyes is confident United negotiate their way out of the group but knows home form will be crucial to United’s chances of reaching the next round, particularly given that have lost four of their last six games on home turf.
“I have been to Old Trafford for the Champions League games and I am always amazed by the atmosphere,” said Moyes.
“With the crowd, under the lights I am hoping that alone will give the supporters something to shout about.
“The players are already motivated because of the level of game it is and the competition it is. We will go in there and try and put on a good show and try and improve on that [home] record.”
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