Old Trafford stars must shoulder some of the blame
Published 19/03/2014 | 01:30
The defiance of the Manchester United fans on Sunday was in sharp contrast to the surrender of their manager and players.
Prior to the visit of United's fiercest rivals, David Moyes declared that Liverpool were favourites for the Premier League encounter.
Hardly the stirring, uplifting words required before a major test. More like waving a white flag as battle approached.
The players were just as uninspiring, outclassed and outfought in every department as they fell to a humiliating 3-0 defeat, leaving them seventh in the table, 18 points behind leaders Chelsea, 14 adrift of Liverpool and Arsenal and trailing Manchester City by 12.
Given the season they have endured, especially at Old Trafford, where the team has lost five league games, scored as many home goals as bottom side Fulham and been knocked out of the two domestic cup competitions, United's fans could have been forgiven for saying enough is enough and turning on the manager and players as they were being embarrassed by the opposition they loathe most.
Instead, to their credit, they were loud and proud about past achievements as the scousers celebrated in the corner of the stadium.
True, some United supporters left once Liverpool's third and final goal was scored, but the majority stayed, determined to stand up and be counted in difficult times.
This was not the 'prawn sandwich brigade' Roy Keane once famously talked about... this was the hardcore United faithful showing the fight that their manager and players desperately need to produce tonight against Olympiakos in the last 16 of the Champions League (SkySports1, 7.45pm).
Moyes has, quite rightly, come in for some serious stick this season. He's been savaged in this newspaper and elsewhere because, for all the issues that come with transition and taking over from an iconic figure like Sir Alex Ferguson, he has been found wanting.
Since the campaign began the job has appeared too big for him.
Many United fans, who were willing to give the Scot a chance until next season, lost complete faith after the 2-0 first leg defeat to Olympiakos in Greece, when his side were even more disjointed and dismal to watch than when they were hammered by Liverpool.
In charge of the mess, Moyes, of course, is the obvious target to throw criticism towards, but he's also an easy target.
United's players may have been questioned, attacked and lambasted for their performances, though not to the level of their beleaguered boss.
They were champions last season and are now playing like chumps.
Really they should be ashamed of themselves for their pitiful efforts this term.
Possibly only goalkeeper David De Gea and young winger Adnan Januzaj have consistently done themselves justice... the rest have underperformed, be that Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand at the back, Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley in midfield or Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney in attack.
Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Marouane Fellaini and Danny Welbeck also have not been good enough. The list goes on...
All must offer the club, the fans and the manager more.
Former United goalkeeper Roy Carroll, who is now with the Greek champions, summed up the surprise at the change in the team's personality.
"United always used to score in the last second and now they are conceding in the last second; it's not the first time they have done that," said the Northern Ireland goalkeeper.
"You would expect them to shut games down, especially when they are coming back from 1-0 down to score two goals in seven minutes against Fulham.
"You'd expect them to win 2-1 but one long ball up front and it's a goal."
Carroll will have been relaying that message to his team-mates in the build-up to tonight's game just as coach Michel will be ramming home the message that there has never been a better time for Olympiakos to finally break their own reputation for being pushovers in Europe away from Athens.
Yesterday, speaking with some intent, Moyes said United 'will rise again'.
Tonight provides the ideal opportunity to start that resurgence.
Olympiakos are nothing special.
A comeback can be achieved, but only if the players finally start to shine under this manager.
Another failure is not an option.