Wayne Rooney says he is desperate to add to his solitary Champions League winners’ medal and believes that Manchester United have the quality to go all the way this season. Despite a torrid first campaign for new manager David Moyes domestically, United progressed comfortably through the group phase of the Champions League. They now face Olympiakos in the first leg of their last-16 tie in Greece on Tuesday looking to make it through to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2011. Rooney, who signed a massive new contract last week, is focused on replicating United’s last triumph in the competition in 2008.
“You always want to win,” he said, according to Manchester United’s official website. “One is never enough, especially at this club. You have to keep trying to get into those finals. The feeling you get when you win the trophy is incredible.
“I think we have the quality to go really far. The main aim is to get the right result on Tuesday and then take each game as it comes. The year Chelsea won it they nearly went out about three times. You just have to keep going, whether or not we get the right result or not. We're looking to get the victory and then progress to the quarterfinals.”
United recorded a welcome win over Crystal Palace on Saturday, but they remain 11 points off fourth place and a return to the Champions League through the Premier League. Thus winning the competition may now be their best route to continuing their 17-year unbroken streak among Europe’s elite.
The Premier League champions will be without Juan Mata in Piraeus, with the January signing from Chelsea ineligible. Moyes has also confirmed that defenders Phil Jones and Jonny Evans have both been left at home as they continue their recovery from injuries. Rafael has traveled, though, and could make his return.
United will certainly not have been too unhappy with a draw that has pitted them against the Greek champions. And what was already a favorable looking matchup has become even more so since it was revealed in December. Last month, Olympiakos sold their top-scorer Kostas Mitroglou to Fulham while talented former Manchester City midfielder Vladimir Weiss was also allowed to leave.
The man most likely to provide the goals following Mitroglou’s departure, Javier Saviola, is also ruled out on Tuesday with a thigh problem. It remains to be seen whether experienced Paraguayan striker Nelson Valdez, signed on loan last month to replace Mitroglou, will recover in time from an ankle problem.
Despite those problems and the gulf in experience at this stage of the Champions League between the two sides, Olympiakos coach Michel is adamant that his side have the belief to cause their English visitors problems at the Karaiskakis Stadium.
“Of course experience counts but we have the ability to overcome our lack of it,” he said, according to UEFA.com. “The passion we have displayed to get here will serve us well against United and cause them problems. We will do everything in our power to beat them tomorrow night.”
Where to watch: The first leg of the Champions League round-of-16 tie will kick off at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Sports 1, with a live stream available at Fox Soccer 2Go.