David Moyes accepts Manchester United are unlikely to be involved in the UEFA Champions League next season, but is sure their absence will be short-lived.
The Premier League champions have long been out of the race to retain the title Sir Alex Ferguson’s side won by 11 points last season, and such is the extent of their decline, they are 17 points adrift of leaders Liverpool and seven behind fourth placed Arsenal. With just five matches of the campaign remaining, the best the Reds can realistically hope for is the top-six, a position in which they sit two points short of Tottenham Hotspur.
So the only route into the Champions League for next term was by winning the competition outright this time round, something which looked out of the question when they lost 2-0 to Olympiakos in the first leg of their last-16 clash. And although they secured a place in the quarter-finals by overturning this deficit with a 3-0 triumph over the Greeks at Old Trafford, they were then paired with reigning champions Bayern Munich.
A 1-1 draw in Manchester last week edged the tie in the favour of the Germans, who finished the job on Wednesday night when they came back from a goal down to beat United 3-1 on the night and 4-2 on aggregate. This is the latest blow in a season of many for Moyes, but the former Everton boss is confident the Reds will soon be back in a competition they have graced since 1996 and have won on two occasions during this time.
“We won’t have Champions League football but I don’t think it is far away,” he said. “We need to build, and our focus is to get a team that can get back in this competition. My job is just to get on with it. [This] is disappointing but we need to get a team ready to get back in there. It’s a great competition, we’ve really enjoyed it and we need to get back in it.”
Whether Moyes will be given the opportunity to build a side capable of competing at the top level again, remains to be seen. Whilst it is largely accepted he has the support of the fans inside Old Trafford, there is a growing feeling this is being severely tested, especially in the wake of 3-0 home defeats to both Liverpool and Manchester City recently.
With nothing but a top-six finish and UEFA Europa League football to play for, this looks destined to be a whimper of an end of season for United. And even if they do finish ahead of Tottenham, this means their fixture pattern will be interrupted next season with the first match in the second-tier European tournament set to begin at the end of July, whilst progress would result in Moyes’ side playing on Thursday evenings.
If the Scot retains his position as manager, it has been suggested that he may have as much as £200million to spend during the summer transfer window. However, he must now persuade the top players to forego at least one season in the Champions League, something which will not be an issue for rival clubs such as Chelsea, City and Liverpool.
One target for Moyes remains Toni Kroos. It is believed chief executive Ed Woodward remained in Munich after the defeat to Bayern in a bid to discuss a possible move to Old Trafford for the German international, who will be down to the final 12 months of his contract at the Allianz Arena in the summer. The midfielder is believed to be interested in a move to United, which would be a huge boost to them ahead of next term.