MANCHESTER, March 20 – Embattled Manchester United manager David Moyes insisted that he was not under pressure after his side’s stirring comeback against Greek champions Olympiakos took them into the Champions League quarter-finals.
Moyes enjoyed a rare night of success at Old Trafford on Wednesday as United overturned a 2-0 deficit from the first leg of their last 16 tie with a 3-0 victory built around a Robin van Persie hat-trick.
With United 18 points off the lead and 12 points shy of the top four in the Premier League after a chastening 3-0 loss to Liverpool on Sunday, the former Everton manager’s position has come under scrutiny.
Some British media reports suggested that his job would remain at risk regardless of the outcome of the Olympiakos tie, but he said he was confident that he retained the full support of his employers.
“I’m not feeling any pressure from inside the club,” he told reporters.
“It’s coming from you people. We know the job we have to do. It’s probably bigger than what I thought when I first came to the club.
“There are stories of this player falling out, or that one falling out, but it’s rubbish. People are looking for reasons why we are not doing well, but it is only because we have not been playing well.”
United had never previously overturned a two-goal deficit in the Champions League knockout phase, but Moyes was unwilling to describe their success as a potential watershed moment.
“People will probably think it’s a turning point in people’s careers, but I didn’t see it like that because the club don’t see it like that,” said the Scot, who signed a six-year contract last year.
“I see myself here for a long time. I think we know we have a lot of work to do, but it’s a great result and we want to stay in the competition.”
Van Persie broke the deadlock with a 25th-minute penalty after he had been bundled over by Jose Holebas and then levelled the aggregate score in first-half injury time by converting a low centre from Wayne Rooney.
– Evergreen Giggs ‘a freak’ –
The Dutch striker settled the tie with a free-kick seven minutes into the second period, but United had to endure several close shaves and were indebted to some assured shot-stopping by goalkeeper David de Gea.
Van Persie was stretchered off in the dying stages after taking a blow to the back of his knee, but Moyes played down the extent of the injury, saying it was “hopefully not too bad”.
He also paid tribute to 40-year-old midfielder Ryan Giggs, who showcased a magnificent range of passing, including raking passes in the build-up to both of his side’s first two goals.
“It’s incredible, the amount of games he’s played in the Champions League,” Moyes said.
“He was fantastic — the passes he made for the two goals, his general football. He’s a freak.”
United will learn the identity of their quarter-final opponents on Friday and while their domestic travails make them unlikely candidates to win the tournament, Moyes believes that they could go all the way.
“We probably now will go into it as underdogs in a lot of the games,” he said. “Hopefully we can do it. I don’t see any reason why not.
“I think this club is capable of it. If we play to our capabilities, which we have not done too often, then I think we will be a match for any team.”
Olympiakos have now lost on all of their 12 visits to England, but having emerged from a group containing Paris Saint-Germain and Benfica before almost upsetting United, coach Michel was eager to emphasise the positives.
“I’m very disappointed, because when I saw the players in the dressing room, it wasn’t a nice sight to see,” said the former Real Madrid midfielder, whose side retained the Greek league title last Saturday.
“But overall, it was a good season in Europe. We have to look forward.”