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More Greek tragedy could be a turning point

rp_Olympiacos-v-Manchester-United-David-Moyes_3090344-200x200.jpgThe final nail in the coffin? Some desperately needed positives or just another routine disappointment followed by the usual post-match interview filled with regrets and coated in mild disappointment? Nobody quite knows what we can expect from tonight, although the chances of United bidding farewell to the Champions League are far greater than to see progress to the quarter finals.

It could, in many ways, be an emotional night at Old Trafford: probably United’s last Champions League appearance after 19 consecutive years and one which could determine David Moyes’ future and therefore the club’s future, the immediate one as well as the long-term one.

The astonishingly poor display in Athens in the first leg was what many thought to be the nadir of Moyes’ tenure at Old Trafford but, having managed to plunge even deeper into misery on Sunday, there are no guarantees whatsoever that United will avoid another embarrassment in a season of lows.

It’s not defeatism, it’s pragmatism. In the history of the Champions League, only once a team trailing 2-0 after the first leg has managed to overturn the deficit and progress to the next stage and even though Olympiacos have never avoided defeat on English soil, only a fool would bet on United progressing to the quarter finals.

Granted, Old Trafford has seen many great European nights, but this team has none of the cavalier approach embodied by Robbo, Whiteside and Stapleton against Barcelona in 1984 – the most obvious term of comparison ahead of tomorrow night, though only for the scoreline, not for the calibre of the opposition – nor does it possess the verve of the teams that put Juventus, Barcelona and Inter Milan to the sword in seasons gone by.

What Old Trafford still can produce, though, as it was abundantly clear on Sunday, it’s a rousing support for the 11 men on the pitch in a red shirt and the fans will need to get behind the team yet again tonight, another act of defiance probably destined to fail, but one that remains necessary, nevertheless.

Almost everybody seems to want David Moyes out now, perhaps even the players himself, but accepting a defeat tonight as a sacrifice for a greater cause are missing the point. United should part ways with their manager regardless of the result against Olympiacos, particularly because, in the unlikely event of them sneaking through to the quarter finals, they’d anyway be obliterated by the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or just about any team left in the competition.

United, though, really ought to go through against a side that was made to look good by United’s tragic deficiencies in the first leg, which are likely to exploited again tonight, as Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young could return to the starting XI, given Juan Mata is cup-tied, while Mr £27m could again feature alongside Michael Carrick.

Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans are both out, meaning that Nemanja Vidic will get to skipper the side again, and too bad if he’s already thinking about which high street shop he should visit first when he gets to Milan, he’ll have to put the thought aside for a while and improve on his recent performances, for United must keep a clean sheet if they’re to stand any chance of going through.

Tonight is United’s 250th game in the European Cup/Champions League. How long we’ll have to wait for the 251st is anybody’s guess.

Probable line-up: 

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