THE BLOG

Do or Die for Moyes' Boys?

18/03/2014 17:44 GMT | Updated 18/05/2014 10:59 BST

Lackadaisical. Lethargic. Lost.

These are all accurate descriptions of Manchester United at the moment - and, after watching his side systematically dismantled at home to Liverpool at the weekend, David Moyes must be wondering if his tenure at Old Trafford could be any worse.

Unfortunately for him, come Thursday morning, it definitely could - and it likely will.

As United lick their wounds following that 3-0 humiliation inflicted by their fierce rivals, their Champions League status also hangs finely in the balance.

It was a similarly awful performance in the first leg at the Karaiskakis Stadium a fortnight ago which leaves them with a mountain to climb - and failure to overturn a two goal deficit will see them drop out of the European elite for the first time in nearly two decades.

Their opposition, Olympiakos, travel to the north west on Wednesday with one foot already in the last eight of this competition - and what an incredible achievement it would be if they were to book their place in the last eight of the competition.

Having secured the Super League trophy last week, the Piraeus club are full of confidence and momentum - and their domestic dominance this year has been quite something.

With ex-Sevilla boss Michel at the helm, and his compatriots Víctor and Carlos Morales Luengo assisting from the bench, the Piraeus club have a strong Spanish foundation at the Karaiskakis, and that I believe that that blueprint has played a large part in their emergence as a force to be reckoned with on the continent.

Just two losses all season has seen them scoop the trophy at a canter, with an 18 point gap on second placed Atromitos, a relentless superiority is akin to that shown by Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga of late.

But it is their Champions League exploits which are really making the headlines back home.

Only one Greek side has ever made it to a European final, and that was Panathanaikos some 43 years ago - and a famous scalp of Manchester United would be a chink of light in the long, dark tunnel that Greek football has found itself in for some time.

Indeed, their recent success is even more remarkable when viewed against the rather unsavoury backdrop of partisan violence and financial fragility which has so blighted the national game of late.

It was a telling that Olympiakos secured the Super League trophy in somewhat underwhelming conditions - surrounded by empty stands - due to a stadium ban implemented due to fan riots last month.

And, of course, AEK Athens, themselves UEFA Cup semi-finalists back in 1977, now find themselves an amateur club plying their trade in the regional third tier following well-publicised financial difficulties.

An against the odds Euro 2004 success of the national team was a surprise to all involved in football, and they even managed to partly replicate that form in 2012, as they made the quarter finals before being knocked out by Germany.

But, despite that - and securing their place in Brazil this summer - there is a distinct lack of passion in national team affairs.

Just a fortnight ago, as Fernando Santos' charges played out their last home warm-up clash before flying out to South America, just 7,600 spectators turned out for the game - an unusually low amount of spectators, even for a friendly.

I have many friends in Greece, and there is a real feeling that a sea-change is on the horizon regarding domestic football in the region.

Olympiakos and Turkish club Galatasaray are just two examples of clubs who appear to be on the cusp of much bigger things - attracting increasingly high-quality talent and matching supposedly 'bigger' European clubs pound for pound.

The likes of Javier Saviola and Ariel Ibagaza to the former, and Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder to the latter, have all switched in the last couple of seasons - and their presence has meant new levels of enthusiasm and attention towards those respective national games.

In fact, the current situation of Greek and Turkish football reminds me of the English game some 15-20 years ago. At that point, the Premier League which largely attracted the more notable and world class players only towards the end of their careers - for example, Gianfranco Zola, Jurgen Klinsmann and Marcel Desailly.

Of course, now, English football has enough weight to attract the cream of the crop - and I believe that we could see, albeit slowly, a similar development in the Balkans.

A place for Olympiakos in the last eight of the Champions League would certainly play a small part in bringing new life to football in the region.

Meanwhile, at Old Trafford, things are anything but fresh - and the woes of David Moyes continue, with no end to them seemingly in sight.

Much is being made of the United handing him the key to a huge £200 million transfer kitty this summer, but with so many quality players looking, at best, out of form, and, at worst, completely disinterested, is Moyes really the man to be entrusted with such financial clout?

After all, his signing of Juan Mata, though widely regarded as a positive move, has not yet had the desired effect - in fact, the Spanish fantasista, hailed as the solution to their problems, has looked completely lost and exasperated in recent weeks.

Stuck out on the wing, he is hardly able to influence proceedings as much as he would be if he was employed in a more central, attacking role, and it puzzles me that Moyes has spent so much money on the star, only to restrict him in such a way.

Indeed, if United fail to qualify for next year's Champions League - an outcome which is increasingly likely with every passing weekend - they will no doubt face an uphill struggle in their quest to secure many of the players being mooted as targets at the moment.

Fabregas? Fat chance. Cavani? Can't see that one happening. Griezmann? Potentially yes - but if he performs at the World Cup, expect his price could increase significantly.

Perhaps Moyes, if he is still in charge come the summer, will need to look a little deeper, under the radar to discover the solution to his side's problems.

What irks Manchester United fans most is not so much the results - although they certainly do not make enjoyable reading - but the continually insipid displays that they are served up.

Performances which once were pulsating, are now more pulse-locating. So devoid of zip and zest are Moyes' side, that many have questioned whether they still have any life left in them - or whether the United which dominated English football for so long is now dead.

As he trudged down the tunnel after watching his side get outplayed and outfought by Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday, Moyes looked nothing more than a dead man walking.

If United are dumped out of the Champions League on Wednesday night, it could well be the final nail in his coffin.