Tag Shaktar Donetsk

Tag Shaktar Donetsk

Preview: United v Shaktar Donetsk

December 10, 2013 Tags: , Matches 1 comment
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Manchester United in crisis! Well, at least that’s the back page version of events after the past week in which David Moyes’ team has securing just one point from nine, in matches against Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and Newcastle United. Indeed, while the results have shocked, United’s performance against the Geordies reached what supporters can only hope is a nadir on Saturday. This wasn’t defeat when victory could equally have come – Moyes’ side was comprehensively outplayed by the side which finished 16th last season.

Still, Europe has presented something of a cathartic break this season, where United has played, if not with freedom, then at least without the burden that has been attached to a poor domestic campaign. Five defeats in 15 games have come in the Premier League, but the Reds have comfortably qualified for the knock-out stages of the continent’s leading competition.

The Reds’ outstanding – and surprising – 5-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen in Germany on matchday five has easily been the highlight of Moyes’ six months in charge. Further wins against Bayer and Real Sociedad at home have brought 11 points from five games. One more secures top spot in Group A and a potentially easier tie in the Round of 16.

It hasn’t always been easy though. United’s 1-0 win over Real at Old Trafford came with a tentative performance, while the return in Spain was overly cautious against an inexperience opponent. Yet, Moyes will take pride from qualifying so comfortably against opponents from Spain and Germany, albeit in a group that contains teams ranked 15th, 27th and 89th in UEFA’s coefficient.

The three point cushion in Group A gives Moyes the option of resting players, although further defeat at Old Trafford on Tuesday night will come not only at the cost of group leadership, but the manager’s credibility in an increasingly difficult season. One in which the responsibility for success, or failure, will eventually lie with Moyes.

“It’s important we give ourselves every chance of progressing even further in the Champions League by finishing top,” said Moyes on Friday.

“It won’t make it easier but it will give us a little bit of an advantage by having the second game at home. We will do everything we can to be top and, as well as that, we’re unbeaten in the group and want to stay unbeaten if we can make that happen.

“We’ve been inconsistent at times. We’ve played very well in some of the games in the Champions League, not so well in the Premier League games I couldn’t put my finger on why some games have looked any better than any of the others.

“We’d like to generally play better but we’d like to pass it better, we’d like to create more chances. We’d like to defend better when those moments arise.

“I take complete responsibility for the results. They’ve been good in the Champions League but they’ve not been good in the Premier League. I would like them to be much better – and I’ve got no doubt they will be.”

Manchester United v Shaktar Donetsk, Champions League, Old Trafford, 10 December 7.45pmMoyes is likely to rotate after three tough domestic games, although Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie could both start. Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidić, Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs are all likely to sit the game out.

Meanwhile, Chris Smalling missed open training on Monday, although could still be fit, while Shinji Kagawa and Marouanne Fellaini are both available for selection. Michael Carrick remains on the sidelines with an achilles problem.

Kagawa missed Saturday’s defeat to Newcastle with what was later described as “over-eating,” while Fellaini has an ongoing wrist injury that has contributed to a woeful lack of form this season.

But it is to van Persie and Rooney that Moyes will look for goals – a commodity missing in two thoroughly depressing defeats this week. Still, with the pair having scored 20 between them in all competitions the £55 million forward line should have enough firepower to take United through, top of Group A.

“What I enjoy most is the interaction together, that we both want to play together,” van Persie told UEFA.com.

“We both realise that we are better off playing together, because we are stronger when we are playing together, as a partnership. You have to have a certain partnership when you’re playing with the number 9 and number 10, the main striker and the second striker. It’s very important that you want to work together.

“With a player of Wayne’s calibre, we can go from strength to strength, and we can become better. It is important that this partnership is growing and becoming even stronger.”

Meanwhile, Mircea Lucescu’s side arrives in Manchester seeking the win that will guarantee progression to the knockout stages. The other fixture in Group A pits Bayer against bottom-placed Sociedad in Spain where victory for the Germans will take them through unless Shaktar wins in Manchester.

The Ukranians arrive in solid domestic form, even if the 4-0 loss at Bayer on matchday three equalled the club’s heaviest ever defeat in European competition. The visitors have no need to rotate either, with the Ukranian league just beginning its winter break. Shaktar completed the 2013 schedule with a 1-0 win at Chornomorets Odesa last week. The champions lie top of the league by five points going into the break, but won’t play another domestic fixture until March.

Still, says Lucescu, the fixture in Manchester is a must-win game against an opponent that “has lost their spark”.

“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,” said Lucescu.

“I watched both defeats, against Everton and Newcastle. When they were playing Everton it was David Moyes’ former team so they were playing with special enthusiasm and motivation, but when they played Newcastle it was like they had lost their spark a bit.”

That is, of course, an understatement given the dismal level of performance against Alan Pardew’s outfit. Still, European competition once again offers a respite, albeit a temporary one with United away at Aston Villa next week. The fixture in Birmingham is one of four Premier League matches before the turn of the year.

The Reds also face winnable fixtures against West Ham United, Hull City, and Norwich City. Then, most pundits thought the same about home matches with Everton and Newcastle.

First, an opportunity to qualify top of Group A in the Champions League – and boost a demoralised squad’s confidence in the same breath.

Manchester United v Shaktar Donetsk, Champions League, Old Trafford, 7.45pm, 10 December 2013

United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Rafael, Evans, Jones, Buttner; Fellaini, Cleverley; Young, Rooney, Welbeck; Rooney; van Persie. Subs from: Lindegaard, Fabio, Vidić, Evra, Smalling, Ferdinand, Anderson, Kagawa, Nani, Valencia, Giggs, Zaha, Januzaj, Hernández

Shaktar (4-2-3-1): Pyatov; Srna, Kucher, Rakitskiy, Shevchuk,; Hübschman, Fernando; Costa, Teixeira, Bernard; Adriano. Subs from: Kanibolotskiy, Chygrynskiy, Ilson Pereira Dias, Stepanenko, Fred, Taison, Eduardo

United 0 Draw 1 Shaktar 0

Officials (all Serbian)
Referee: Milorad Mažić
Assistant referees: Milovan Ristić, Dalibor Djurdjević
Additional assistant referees: Danilo Grujić, Miodrag Gogić


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Caution marks a new United way

October 3, 2013 Tags: , , Opinion 9 comments
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“We didn’t play for a draw, we played to win,” insisted Manchester United manager David Moyes as the Donass Arena emptied on Wednesday night. It’s the way he tells them, with not a flicker in the straightest face.

It was the second conference in succession that the Scot had drawn mirth from the gathered fourth estate. Little more than 24 hours previously Moyes had spoken of his time at Preston North End as if five years in charge of the Lancashire outfit was ample preparation for a difficult start Old Trafford.

Justification in the conceit came with a point claimed – the first Champions League draw any Premier League side has taken at the Donbass in the decade since Shaktar Donetsk dispatched Arsenal to emerge onto the European scene.

It was a point earned as Moyes’ side returned to the Scot’s coaching roots. Defensively, United’s back-to-basics approach, disciplined shape, and much improved performances were far superior to recent matches against West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City. The Reds rarely looked under pressure even as a decent Shaktar outfit hogged possession in a tense second half.

But defending has only ever been one half of the game. The ying to a creative yang that is seemingly missing from United’s game under the new manager.

United stepped a point closer to the Champions League knock-out stages, but this was a side that managed just a single shot on target in eastern Ukraine, with just 42 per cent possession gained.

Moyes recounts a contradictory tale, but this was a United side content to wholly concede the impetus against Europe’s 15th-ranked team. And contrary to popular myth Shaktar has won just two home games in the past two years in this competition.

It was as if Moyes didn’t truly believe United could win. On Monday Moyes argued that United is “five or six players” short of winning the tournament. Wednesday served to underline the Scot’s point.

Still, time may prove the draw valuable in Group A, although the attitude said as much about United’s form and ambition in this year’s Champions League as the hosts’ quality.

“There’s a bit of disappointment that we didn’t see the game out,” the United manager said.

“But Shakhtar had a lot of pressure in the second half. I don’t think they really worried us but unfortunately in the end we gave away a goal. We had to be harder to play against than we have in recent games, and overall we were.”

United was certainly that.

Compact and disciplined, United rarely looked over-run in midfield – an area where Moyes’ side had suffered in successive Premier League defeats. Michael Carrick, sat at the base of United’s diamond, with Marouanne Fellaini and Tom Cleverley providing energy in midfield, to ensure United remained competitive throughout. It was an thoroughly conservative approach.

Meanwhile, Danny Welbeck and Antonio Valencia remained vigilant on the wings, although the Ecuadorian failed to track his man as Shaktar equalised with 15 to go.

Fellaini, meanwhile, created an opportunist goal, spinning away from his marker to deliver a low cross that Welbeck stabbed home, although it was the Belgian’s sole contribution of note in a sloppy performance that lasted just over an hour.

Indeed, now a little over a month into his United career, the Belgian’s acquisition has created more questions than solutions provided. While the 25-year-old rarely tackles, and is far from a natural defender, he has contributed little in the attacking third either.

More concerning still, the midfielder’s lack of pace is such that Reds recalling the marauding forward, who caused United’s back four so much trouble at Goodison Park last season, might have caused to reconsider the memory.

The approach also left Robin van Persie desperately isolated – a lone striker too often half a  pitch away from his colleagues. Little wonder United was reduced to feeding off semi chances and set-pieces.

Still, there were positives, not least a far more commanding performance from captain Nemanja Vidić than has been delivered of late. Vidić has suffered three serious knee injuries in recent seasons, blunting the Serbian’s pace, and forcing United’s back-four to defend ever deeper – a factor that for once suited Moyes’ tactics in Donetsk.

“We were hard to beat in all positions, not just at the back, but in midfield and wide, and that’s the way we have to play,” said the 31-year-old.

“We have to accept it has not been a great start. We have not been getting the performances we would have liked and we also have to be realistic enough to accept we have made some mistakes.

“Sometimes the results don’t come. Sometimes the performances don’t come. The most important thing is to defend right. If we defend well, I think we have a really good chance to win trophies.”

It is a sentiment with which his manager will concur. Moyes in a microcosm; a defender’s perspective on coaching, from a man who preached shape first in a decade at Everton. Function over form and substance often in lieu of style.

Expect not a return to United’s swashbuckling displays of the late 1990s, nor the panche of the 2008 trophy winning side. But then Moyes does not possess the same wealth of creative talent as Sir Alex Ferguson, nor hold a bank of credit that would enable the 50-year-old to take greater risks in his first European season.

This United side may have to come out of its shell if the Reds are to progress to the tournament’s latter stages, but for now supporters can expect a more pragmatic style than ever. This is an observation underlined by Moyes’ 90th minute substitution: defender Phil Jones for goalscorer Welbeck.

Yet, pragmatism and United remain uneasy bedfellows. While Sir Alex evolved United’s style to match the most circumspect on the continent it is one thing to park the bus at Camp Nou, as United successfully achieved in 2008, quite another to match the feat at Shaktar.

Preview: Shaktar Donetsk v United

October 1, 2013 Tags: , Matches 6 comments
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He is a man under pressure, criticised for a lacklustre performance in the summer transfer market, and suffering a disappointing start to the new season on the pitch. But enough talk of veteran Shaktar Donetsk manager Mircea Lucescu, it is David Moyes that desperately needs a result in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday night.

Lucescu lost the not inconsiderable talents of Fernandinho and Henrikh Mkhitaryan over the the summer, Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund spending more than £50 million on the pair. Meanwhile two defeats in the opening 11 matches of the Ukrainian league leave Shaktar behind rivals Metalist Kharkiv and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk.

Yet, it is Moyes, following successive and hugely damaging Premier League defeats, that desperately seeks not only the respite of European football, but a morale boosting victory at the 50,000-seat Donbass Arena.

There is, of course, a match amid the lurid headlines and loom-laden predictions enveloping United since the 4-1 defeat at Manchester City, with the Reds seeking another step towards qualification from Group A.

United put four past Bayer Levekusen on Champions League matchday one, but with Real Sociedad also in the group there are unlikely to be too many free points in this year’s group stage. Not least with United struggling for form so early in the season.

Still, Moyes seemingly remains calm; confident that his methods will eventually secure the results United’s sub-par performances have rarely merited to date this season.

“I have been in situations very similar to this at my old clubs Everton and also at Preston. You get on and you do the right things,” said the 50-year-old, who is in his first Champions League campaign.

“I haven’t changed what I have done. I will continue to do that. The results will come. I have no doubt about that. We are getting to know [the players], we are understanding them much more. I am beginning to get a better feel for them all. I know one thing about them. They are really good players, top players they are. That will never change.”

Moyes struck a more assertive tone on Tuesday, following the Scot’s earlier assertion that his side was “five or six world-class players” short of winning the Champions League. Indeed, the defeatist attitude had rung loud all week, with Moyes previously claiming that United’s 20th league title victory last season was largely due to the “poor” quality of opponent.

Indeed, the new United manager is seemingly learning the ropes daily, not least when it comes to media interest in the club. From Moyes’ anointment by Sir Alex Ferguson, to a baffling summer transfer market circus, Moyes is yet to find his own voice as the key man at Old Trafford.

“It is always the thing at Manchester United – everyone is interested in them. It is talking point for everybody throughout the world,” admits the Scot.

“That is why it is, for me, the greatest club. It is a great honour to be the manager. Even our arrival here in Donetsk has been greeted with a lot of supporters at the airport. It is a great thing.”

Shaktar Donetsk v Manchester United - Champions League, Donbass Arena - 7.45pm, 2 October 2013On the pitch Moyes has a largely complete squad to select from, although defender Rio Ferdinand was the major absentee from United’s Tuesday morning flight east. The 34-year-old defender has a minor groin strain, although it is unlikely the veteran would have featured in any case. Ferdinand has missed similarly lengthy European trips in recent season.

Meanwhile, Robin van Persie could start after the Dutchman returned from injury as a substitute at the weekend. Patrice Evra and captain Nemanja Vidic should also feature after sitting out United’s horror-show at home to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.

Marouane Fellaini is set to start alongside Michael Carrick, while Moyes will choose between Nani, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young for a spot on the flanks. Teenage sensation Adnan Januzaj, fresh from scoring a stunning left-footed drive for the reserves on Tuesday, does not qualify for the Champions League ‘B list’ until mid-October.

“Yes, Robin is fit, but we will make a decision tomorrow whether we start him or not,” confirmed Moyes. “We have left one or two players behind. Anderson, Fabio, Wilf Zaha and Rio Ferdinand are not with us. Rio has a slight groin problem but it’s nothing serious.”

Meanwhile, the hosts are without summer signing Wellington Nem, who suffered a knee injury shortly after joining from Fluminense for £8 million. However, Lucescu can select Fred, Fernando and Bernard who all joined in the summer, making it a round 10 Brazilians in the Shaktar squad.

The Ukrainians helped eliminate Chelsea in last season’s group stage, with Lucescu’s men beating the then holders 2-1 in Donetsk with goals from Alex Teixeira and Fernandinho. Indeed, Shakhtar have won all three previous Champions League fixtures against English visitors to the Donbass, beating Arsenal in 2001 and 2011.

Veteran coach Lucescu become the club’s longest-serving coach this week having been in charge since May 2004 in what has been an unprecedented period of success. Seven Ukrainian league titles have followed together with a hat-trick of Cups between 2011 and 2013. The UEFA Cup was secured in 2009, while the club made the Champions League quarter-final in 2011.

Now 68, Lucescu played for his country 70 times and made over 400 appearances for Romanian clubs before retirement in 1990. He has managed a dozen clubs in a managerial career now drawing to a close, including Internazionale when the Italian club was beaten by United on the way to Champions League victory in 1999.

Still, with Moyes’ United struggling for form, Lucescu senses a genuine opportunity to take a major European scalp, especially with Shaktar’s record proving so durable against English opponents.

“David Moyes hasn’t found his best lineup yet, as he is changing four or five players from game to game,” said Lucescu pointedly.

“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.

“He is clearly one of the best coaches in the Premier League, but he needs time to organise his new team properly. I am sure that sooner or later he will resolve all his present problems, but I hope it will happen after the game in Donetsk.”

Moyes hopes much the opposite. Indeed, the Scot can barely afford a result beyond a rare away victory at the Donbass.


Shaktar Donetsk v Manchester United, Champions League, Donbass Arena, 7.45pm, 2 October 2013

Shaktar (4-5-1): Pyatov; Srna, Kucher, Shevchuk, Rakitskiy; Hubschman, Teixeira, Costa, Bernard, Luiz Adriano; Taison. Subs from: Kanibolotskiy, Volovyk, Chygrynskiy, Kryvtsov, Stepanenko, Fred, Kobin, Eduardo, Fernando, Grechyshkin, Ilsinho, Ferreyra

United (4-4-1-1): De Gea; Rafael, Evans, Vidic, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Fellaini, Welbeck; Rooney; van Persie. Subs from: Lindegaard, Fabio, Buttner, Smalling, Jones, Cleverley, Giggs, Kagawa, Nani, Hernández

Shaktar 0 Draw 0 United 0

Referee: Pavel Královec (CZE)
Assistant referees: Roman Slyško (SVK) , Martin Wilczek (CZE)
Additional assistant referees:Radek Příhoda (CZE), Michal Paták (CZE)

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