Moyes Insists He’s Not Nervous for Champions League

There was no escaping Manchester United’s illustrious European history for David Moyes at his pre-match press conference for the Champions League opener against Borussia Dortmund.

Iconic images of United’s European triumphs stared down at their new manager from the walls of Old Trafford’s Europa Suite – a reminder of the standard expected at a club where success is measured only in terms of trophies won.

From Sir Matt Busby and Sir Bobby Charlton holding the European Cup aloft in 1968, to the 1999 Treble-clinching win over Bayern Munich and the 2008 Champions League final win over Chelsea, Moyes was left in no doubt of the weight of expectation.

On Tuesday, former Everton boss Moyes takes charge of his first match in the Champions League proper, against German visitors Bayer Leverkusen, with the pressure already building on the 50-year-old Scot less than three months into the United job.

Having reached three finals in four years between 2008 and 2011, Manchester’s Reds have under-achieved in the Champions League for the past two seasons, controversially falling to Real Madrid in the last 16 last term and failing to make it out of the group stage the season before.

Their European record at Old Trafford – once considered a fortress in terms of their immunity to defeat – makes for shabby reading too: Just three wins in their last nine games at the Theatre of Dreams, to go with two draws and four defeats.

Moreover, those wins hardly came against heavyweight European opposition, as Romania’s Otelul Galati, Galatasaray of Turkey and Portugal’s Braga were defeated.

Against that poor European backdrop, United have already dropped five points from 12 in the Premier League this season and have not scored from open play in their last three games.

The first rumblings of discontent are starting to emerge from fans.

That is why this Champions League opener, against a side that finished third in the Bundesliga last season behind European Cup finalists Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, has already assumed huge significance for Moyes, who also has the small matter of the Manchester derby away to title rivals City to follow on Sunday.

But if he is feeling the pressure ahead of such a big week, Moyes did an impressive job of masking it, tackling head-on the perception of him as a coach with little or no experience of European club football’s elite event and insisting he is unfazed.

“I’m really excited about the Champions League, but then I’ve been really excited about joining Manchester United,” he said.
“Every game has offered a new challenge and a tough one at that as well. So I’m really looking forward to the Champions League.
“I’ve been there before with Everton, when we played Villarreal [in a qualification play-off], but we didn’t quite make the group stage. This is something different.
“I’m now managing a club which is used to getting close to the final stages and we’ll try to do that again.
“I know a lot about the Champions League, I’ve watched plenty of games. I even played in it – in the old European Cup.
“I’ve been in the Premier League a long time, had 12 to 15 years of managing and I’ve always wanted to get into the Champions League.
“I’ve done everything I possibly could with Everton to try to make that happen and now I’ve got another route here with Manchester United I’m going to do everything I possibly can to win it.”

What has made the task facing Moyes that much harder is that United have arguably been drawn in their hardest pool since 2007, with Leverkusen, Ukraine heavyweights Shakhtar Donetsk and Real Sociedad making up Group A.

“We have got a leading team from Germany, a leading team from Spain and we have to go to Donetsk to play Shakhtar, who are pretty experienced in the competition,” said Moyes. “So I see it as difficult group.
“But I think all groups are tough. I think the Champions League is different now. You could always pick out the winning teams, but in the last year or two it’s been hard to pick out a winner. It’s a little bit more unpredictable than it has been in the past.”

Moyes revealed how a visit from United legend Sir Bobby Charlton, on his first day in the job at Old Trafford, had given him a unique insight into what is required of the club’s manager.
“It was a really important moment for me when Sir Bobby said he wanted to see me in my office,” said Moyes. “I was in awe. I think everyone who meets Sir Bobby is.
“The way he spoke, he’s an incredibly humble man. He explained what it meant to be at Manchester United, what a Manchester United manager should be like and then he went on to talk about football.
“For a man of his age, he obviously has his wits about him. He is very knowledgeable about the game as well as all the modern things that have moved the game on. I found his company great.”

Moyes is expected to pick a strong team, insisting his selection will not be affected by the prospect of Sunday’s trip to the Etihad.
“I’ve always believed your next game is the most important one,” he said. “That’s always been my management style. The next game is the most important one and I won’t look further than that. Maybe in time I might change my thoughts.”

Probable teams
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Fabio, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Carrick, Fellaini; Valencia, Rooney, Young; van Persie.
Bayer Leverkusen (4-2-3-1): Leno; Donati, Wollscheid, Spahic, Boenisch; Reinartz, Bender; Rolfes, Sam, Heung-Min; Kiessling.

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