Manchester United boss David Moyes is taking full responsibility for his team’s struggles, and believes they will respond strongly for the visit of Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday. The Premier League champions lost their fifth game in their title defense against Newcastle United on Saturday, which was also their second defeat in the past week at the once fortress of Old Trafford. If Manchester United, already qualified for the Champions League knockout phase, avoid a third straight home loss they will secure top spot in their group. And Moyes remains confident in his players.
“The players are hurting because they are used to winning," he said, according to Manchester United’s official website. "When they don't win, that hurts them as they care very much about their team and their club. They are good lads and will respond in the right way.
"I take complete responsibility for the results. Fortunately, they've been good in the Champions League but not in the Premier League. I take the responsibility. I would like them to be much better and have no doubt they will.”
Manchester United’s good Champions League form was emphasized with a 5-0 drubbing of Bayer Leverkusen two weeks ago. That result means that it would take a victory by a three-goal margin for Shakhtar in order to overtake the Red Devils at the top of Group A. With that in mind, Moyes has hinted that he may look to rest players ahead of the trip to Aston Villa on Sunday. Having surprisingly played the full 90 minutes on his return from a month out at the weekend, Robin van Persie may be one of those left out. Shinji Kagawa could return to the lineup after recovering from having his stomach pumped, bizarrely caused, according to Moyes, by him having eaten too much.
While topping the group is a long shot, Shakhtar will be desperate to get a victory in order to ensure making it through to the last 16 for the second straight year. The Ukrainian champions need to match Bayer Leverkusen’s result at Real Sociedad in order to progress. Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu is expecting a tough match at Old Trafford, despite their opponents’ recent struggles.
“Even though they are not playing well, these are two different competitions and you can't really compare them,” he said, according to UEFA.com. “In the Premier League, the English teams know each other and the teams they are playing, but with the Champions League it is a totally different situation. For Manchester United it is a must-win match as they want to win so they can top the group and for our part we are going to play our best as it is important for us to progress as well.”
Shakhtar won their last league match before the month-long winter break to take a five point lead in the standings and have tasted victory in their last five matches in all competitions. Lucescu has no fitness concerns heading to Manchester.
Where to watch: The Champions League Group A clash will kick off at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Sports 1, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.