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Greek tragedy leaves United in ruins

1191563-24908919-640-360In all likelihood, this was going to be one of United’s last ever away trip in the Champions League for a couple of seasons and United ensured it was a night we’ll not forget in a long time, even though most of us will hope to wake up tomorrow to the news that tonight never happened, that it was all a nightmare.

Forget the disgracefully wrong tactics, forget the ineptitude that has reigned supreme for months in different areas of the pitch, forget about the horribly dire football we’ve been treated to in almost every game this season, forget even about the fact that this tie and United’s Champions League are as good as over, the players wearing the Manchester United shirt tonight ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Having flirted with humiliation all season and having plummeted to previously unexplored depths, United reached what it must surely be their nadir, a performance so abject that it can’t, it shouldn’t but it probably will be excused, for that’s what United and their manager have become masters at this season: excuses.

Hard as he might try, though, not even David Moyes could possibly have an ounce of respect for his players after tonight, nor should he have an ounce of respect for himself, his disgracefully outdated tactics proving yet again the springboard for a leap into the ocean of mediocrity that’s been our natural habit this season.

Up until tonight, United had never lost agains Greek sides, had scored three goals in their last three meetings against Olympiacos and had arrived in Athens on the back of four consecutive clean sheets in Europe, but the positives evaporated as soon as the game kicked off, United surviving the hosts’ determined start before setting into the now usual routine of passing the ball sideways, without even considering the opportunity of going forward, a topic that remains taboo for Moyes and his coaching staff.

With Juan Mata cup-tied, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia returned to the starting XI, for Adnan Januzaj is better kept fresh for blockbuster occasions such as Crystal Palace away, while Marouane Fellaini’s first positive appearance for the club was rewarded with a place on the bench, with Tom Cleverley yet again allowed to perpetrate crimes against football in the middle of United’s midfield.

It’s sad to see people abusing Cleverley on social media networks, for it’s petty, cowardly and a shockingly stupid behaviour, but the sooner Cleverley realises that those who criticise – not abuse – him do so because he’s an awful player, who adds nothing to the team nor he deserves to be playing for United, rather than because they want to make a scapegoat out of him, the better.

Cleverley shouldn’t wear a United shirt again and the same can be said about Valencia, who’s regressed so much that he’s now pipped Ashley Young to the accolade of worst winger in the team, given that Young at least looks like he seldom gives a toss about events unfolding on the pitch, while Valencia is as uninterested as he is mono-dimensional.

United’s dismal season has been marred by a rotten luck, which reared its ugly head again as Alejandro Dominguez flicked Giannis Maniatis’ shot past David De Gea with 38 minutes gone, but the Reds had never looked dangerous, failing to produce a single shot on target in the first 45 minutes and replicating the diabolical feature in the second, when the only chance was skied by Robin Van Persie.

By then, however, United were already 2-0 down as Arsenal loanee Joel Campbell nutmegged Michael Carrick before unleashing a curler past De Gea to put his side two goals up and complete a night throughout which he was made to look like Lionel Messi by Ferdinand, Vidic and Smalling.

Vidic is clearly already in Milan or wherever he’ll end up in the summer, Smalling offered another timely reminder that at right-back is not so much a disaster waiting to happen as a disaster unfolding, while Rio should never play professional football at this level again, much Gary Neville did after being brutally exposed against Stoke and WBA in his final season.

Much like United, Ferdinand was awful, the paltry shadow of his former self – there’s a theme developing here – and things didn’t improve once Danny Welbeck and Shinji Kagawa replaced Valencia and Cleverley.

At 2-0 down with a second leg at Old Trafford to go, until 12 months ago we’d have backed United to get something out of the tie, but having witnessed tonight’s diabolical performance, we can just about hope to see a decent return leg, without suffering further humiliation, for of that we’ve had in abundance this season.

Moyes, the coaching staff and the players should be ashamed of themselves. Losing is understandable and occasionally acceptable, surrendering in such dismal fashion is ludicrous and disrespectful. The sooner this lot get what Manchester United means, the better for all of the parties involved, or the summer clearout might not just involve players.