Shakhtar to inflict more misery on Man United?
With alarm bells ringing in their ears, one of the last things David Moyes and his Manchester United players need right now is a tricky trip to Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk tomorrow night.
This is the sort of game Sir Alex Ferguson would have been wary of even when his team were firing on all cylinders. Now, after three Premier League defeats already this season, most recently an embarrassing home defeat to West Brom last Saturday, this tie looks like another disaster waiting to happen – at least it will seem that way to United fans so used to expecting the best, but now fearing the worst.
Coral make Shakhtar favourites at 11/8 with United 21/10 and that gives a fair indication of the difficulty of the task facing Moyes, who must lift his players out of the trough they seem to have sunk into.
It is very debatable whether his recent comments have done much to appease the Old Trafford faithful or indeed do a great deal for the players’ morale. Saying that United were now light on quality (a remark seized upon and distorted by sections of the media) will have made some question their own ability, while warning the fans that they may have to settle for less than they are used to in this period of transition, while a realistic observation, just looks to some like lowering the bar.
Most at Old Trafford are confident that Moyes will get it right in time, especially when some big money is spent, but in the meantime there are important jobs to be done, like staying in touch with the leaders in the Premier League and ensuring qualification into the Champions League knock-out stage – by no means a certainty.
Shakhtar are a good team, as they showed when beating Real Sociedad 2-0 in Spain on matchday one. They have a strong and talented Brazilian contingent, including former Arsenal striker, Eduardo (7/1 to score first or last, 2/1 at any time), on the mark again in their local derby last weekend.
We can be sure that Moyes won’t be messing about fielding a shadow squad tomorrow and Reds’ fans will be very much comforted by the return to the starting line-up of Robin Van Persie, automatic favourite to score first or last (5/1) or at any time (5/4).
Even so, one imagines the United boss will be more than happy in the circumstances to return home with a draw (21/10) and that looks the most likely outcome, perhaps 1-1 (11/2).
Written by Jon Freeman