MANCHESTER, England (AP) — If Manchester United thought things were bad after a humiliating English Premier League loss to Liverpool at the weekend, they could get a whole lot worse if the team exits the Champions League on Wednesday.
Qualifying for the last 16 offered potential respite from the domestic woes of United and under-fire manager David Moyes, especially when they were given a supposedly benign draw with Olympiakos.
It hasn't worked out that way. A 2-0 defeat in Piraeus in the first leg has left United with slim chances of advancing to the quarterfinals, leaving the club staring at a trophyless season in Moyes' tumultuous first year in charge.
Here are five things to know about the second leg on Wednesday:
MOYES HANGING ON: The only positive Moyes could cling to after a demoralizing 3-0 home loss to Liverpool on Sunday was that supporters inside Old Trafford continued to back the team to the end. There were no boos at the final whistle and fans carried on singing even as the ball hit the back of the net for Liverpool's late third goal. United fans, though, can barely believe what they are seeing in the first season after the departure of Alex Ferguson; the team is seventh in the Premier League; a top-four finish is virtually impossible; seven defeats in 14 matches in 2014; big players not performing. If the crowd turns on Moyes, he could struggle to retain his grip on his job. The reaction Moyes and the team receive on Wednesday, especially if they go behind, will be telling. "I actually think they have seen some defeats they wouldn't have expected and have stuck with the team throughout," Moyes said Tuesday. "They have seen great success here in the past and will see great success again in the future. This club is the biggest club in the world. It might not feel it today, but it will rise again."
WHERE ARE THE GOALS? Possibly the most worrying statistic of all for Moyes will be this: United has just 18 goals at home in the EPL this season, the same amount as last-place Fulham. Wayne Rooney's form and reintegration to the squad has been the most encouraging aspect of Moyes' first season but his partnership with Robin van Persie isn't firing and their link-up play was non-existent against Liverpool. Old Trafford no longer intimidates visiting teams. And there's even more pressure on United on Wednesday, since winning the Champions League offers the only realistic route back into the competition next season. "It is a difficult moment, a new challenge. We have not been in this situation before," United defender Patrice Evra said. "We were always playing to win the league, win the Champions League, but you have to show your character, your personality."
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