David Moyes has moved to try and clarify comments he made suggesting that Manchester United were not equipped to succeed in the Champions League this season. After Saturday’s ignominious defeat at home to West Brom, Moyes claimed that United did not have the “five or six world-class players” necessary to compete with Europe’s finest. But ahead of an encounter against Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine, he confirmed that he will be doing everything in his power to lift a trophy United last won in 2008.
“I said to win the Champions League you need to have a certain amount of world-class players,” he explained. “That is something we will try and do. Of course we will try and win the Champions League. It is part of the job at Manchester United and I will do everything possible to try and make that happen.”
Moyes has endured a tough start to his reign at Old Trafford, having lost three of the club’s first six Premier League games to make it United’s worst start to a season in 24 years. The former Everton manager’s opposite number, Mircea Lucescu, has ventured a theory on United’s stuttering start, suggesting that Moyes’s propensity for rotating his side from game-to-game has been unsettling.
“I have watched most of United's recent matches and can say that David Moyes hasn't found his best lineup yet, as he is changing four or five players from game to game,” the Romanian said, according to UEFA.com. “The link-up play between their players is not as good as it used to be so the team suffers, which is happening with us too because Shakhtar have a lot of new players.”
There are likely to be further changes for the Premier League champions at the Donbass Arena. Robin van Persie is fit to start after coming off the bench at the weekend. Rio Ferdinand is ruled out with a groin injury, while Anderson, Fabio and Wilfried Zaha have not traveled.
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Both clubs began their Champions League campaign with victories, with Manchester United triumphing 4-2 at home to Bayer Leverkusen and Shakhtar claiming a 2-0 win on the road against Real Sociedad. Lucescu’s men have not had their normally dominant start to their domestic league campaign and currently sit third in the table. The Ukrainian champions will, though, have forward Luiz Adriano back available after he missed the draw with Metalurh Donetsk at the weekend.
Shakhtar Donetsk (probable)
D: Srna. Kucher, Rakitskiy, Shevchuk
M: Fernando, Hubschman
Douglas Costa, Teixeira, Taison
F: Luiz Adriano
Manchester United (probable)
G: De Gea
D: Rafael, Jones, Vidic, Evra
M: Carrick, Fellaini
Valencia, Rooney, Welbeck
F: Van Persie
Prediction: It has long been a misguided cliché to simply point out that an away fixture at Shakhtar Donetsk involved an awkward journey and some potentially frosty fingers. In recent years they have earned the right to be considered among Europe’s elite. Indeed, they have a 100 percent record against English opposition at home, while they knocked out Chelsea in last season’s competition.
Several players have been lost in the past year, with the likes of Willian, Fernandinho and Henrikh Mkhitaryan all moving on. But Shakhtar are a club that is prepared for such sales and have simply drafted in the next crop of exciting young talent from Brazil. Defensive midfielder Fernando maybe the only one to start on Wednesday, but much-coveted fellow Brazil international Bernard will be waiting in the wings to add attacking flair. Fred also provides an exciting option from the bench.
Although defensively not rock solid, Shakhtar’s front four can be difficult for any club to handle. Given that Darijo Srna is also a threat from right-back, Moyes is likely to select a defensively-minded lineup, with Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck potentially being drafted in to provide work-rate down the flanks. The uninspiring Ashley Young may also be an option.
United have been poor defensively in recent weeks and it should actually be a boost, given his recent performances, that Ferdinand will not be involved. In truth there is not one area of United’s side that has functioned well so far under Moyes. Van Persie’s return is encouraging, but he has hardly been in sparkling form. It may suit United to play on the counter-attack, and a draw is possible if they can keep things tight, but Shakhtar have to be favorites to get a win that would pour more pressure on Moyes from the English press, but in truth should not be seen as a surprise.
Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 Manchester United
Where to watch: The Champions League Group A match 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.