Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United hoping for perfect 10 against Real Sociedad

By Simon Stone

Manchester United manager David Moyes has not had time to start Sir Alex Ferguson's autobiography – but it is clear he has picked up valuable lessons from his fellow Scot.

When he checked in at Manchester Airport yesterday for the flight to Spain ahead of tonight's Champions League encounter with Real Sociedad, Moyes (below) was pictured with a copy of Ferguson's account of life in the Old Trafford hot-seat in his hand luggage.

Once Moyes gets around to thumbing his way through it, he will find an insight into how Ferguson liked to defend his players.

And, while it might not be in the book, Moyes would not have to look too far elsewhere to discover Ferguson talking about reaching a 10-point watermark he regarded as essential for qualification into the Champions League knock-out phase.

In his robust assessment of Sascha Riether's challenge on Adnan Januzaj at Fulham on Saturday, Moyes went with the first principle.

Januzaj appeared to be stamped on by Sascha Riether during injury-time.

The incident was not spotted by referee Lee Probert, with Moyes claiming immediately afterwards he had not seen it either.

Riether was charged with violent conduct by the Football Association over the incident yesterday, becoming the first player to be charged under a pilot scheme where a panel of three former referees reviews video evidence of incidents not seen by match officials.

Having viewed the replays himself, the United boss feels Januzaj needs more protection than he is presently receiving.

"I do think Adnan is going to need a little bit of protection or we are going to find that he is getting kicked up and down.

"I do think he deserves a little bit more than he is getting at this present time."

Moyes accepts the nature of the modern game means Januzaj will be targeted.

"He has learned from the good professionals that he has got to get on with it and accept it," admits Moyes.

"He only needs to look at Lionel Messi, who is probably the best in the world at getting kicked, getting up and getting on with it and continually producing magic all the time. I am not in any way comparing him to Lionel Messi but I am saying we hope the way he gets up after he has been kicked is the way Adnan continues to behave."

Januzaj protection will not be on Moyes' mind tonight and as he observed the state of a Group A campaign in which his side have collected seven points from their opening three matches, it is clear the Scot would regard victory as job done with two games to spare. Not that he is taking his eye off opponents who have lost every match so far.

"I have a lot of respect for Sociedad, and we will have to play well if we are going to get those 10 points which will get us over the line," says Moyes.

"But we have got ourselves in a good position in the group and we have to try to maintain that."

The last time United visited the Basque country, two seasons ago, they were soundly beaten by Athletic Bilbao in a rather chastening Europa League experience.

Sociedad appear to offer less of a threat.

Although they can put forward reasonable excuses for all three reverses – notably they conceded in injury-time against Bayer Leverkusen and were beaten by an early own goal at Old Trafford a fortnight ago – Sociedad evidently lack the power of not only tournament heavyweights Real Madrid and Barcelona, but also Atletico Madrid and Valencia, who finished fifth in Spain last term, a point behind Sociedad.

"It's very difficult to play at the level Real Madrid and Barcelona are at," said United's Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea.

"They might not be at the top top level yet but it's obvious Real Sociedad have been playing great football over the years.

"They made it very complicated for us in the first game and we hope to do our best against them."

United go into the game on the back of a seven-match unbeaten run in all competitions and after recording back-to-back Premier League victories for the first time since Moyes took charge.

With the visit of leaders Arsenal looming on Sunday, tonight's game could be viewed as being of secondary importance.

However, while United cannot actually make qualification certain on Tuesday, they would need only a point from their remaining two games if a third victory in 22 away games in Spain was to be achieved, taking pressure off Moyes leading into the crucial pre-Christmas phase.

"Everything we're doing in this Champions League we're doing in the Premier League as well," says Moyes. "The players are used to it. They are experienced at this level and that helps. I hope that continues."

Moyes reported positive news on the injury front, saying: "We don't have a lot of injuries. It's probably the best Manchester United have had for a long time."

Nevertheless, Northern Ireland defender Jonny Evans, Rafael and Tom Cleverley, who were all substituted at Fulham with various ailments, remained in Manchester.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph