Wednesday 25 April 2018

Alan Hansen: Moyes and Mourinho to show Premier League remains a major force

Manchester United manager David Moyes and Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
Manchester United manager David Moyes and Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho

Alan Hansen

This is a massive week for English football in the Champions League, and the prospect of Manchester United losing to Olympiakos is unthinkable for David Moyes.

Manchester City and Arsenal are both goners after losing their first legs last week so the responsibility falls on United and Chelsea to show that Premier League clubs can still compete against the best in Europe.

For Moyes, a defeat by Olympiakos over two legs would send them back to square one, but reaching the quarter-finals would undoubtedly give him some respite.

This has been a season of transition for United and while I do not expect them to go on and win the Champions League, getting into the last eight would give Moyes reason to be optimistic about next season.

We are at the stage now where United are grasping at every piece of good news they can lay their hands on. Wayne Rooney signing his new contract is fantastic for them; even though the figures being thrown around are astronomical, when you strip away the financial aspect, the fact is he is still there.


Victory at Crystal Palace should usually be seen as the norm but Saturday's 2-0 win is now viewed as a major positive.

If they get through against Olympiakos, which they should do, United are back in business. I can't see them going any further than the semi-finals, though.

Chelsea are far better structured for the competition and they offer more to the Champions League than the other English teams. Their defence is better than anybody else's, but the problem is they haven't got a centre-forward who can score them a goal when the game is tight.

They are actually the complete opposite to Manchester City, who sat back for the first 20 minutes against Barcelona and didn't get it right.

They had too many players back and didn't have an outlet when the ball came back at them.

They will now have to take the game to Barcelona at the Nou Camp in the second leg, but that's just playing into their hands and I can't see them getting anything.

This year I thought City would win it but they will have learned from their experience. They have definitely improved in the competition under Manuel Pellegrini and will come back stronger.

It could have been different for Arsenal against Bayern Munich, especially after the way they started at the Emirates, but Mesut Ozil's missed penalty changed the game and they've fallen short again.

They won in Munich last year and if they'd had another five minutes could even have won the tie but the smart money is on the defending champions to go through.

City and Arsenal's results undoubtedly made it a bad week for the Premier League as a product.

The Premier League is where all the money is and where you want the best players and teams. You would want at least two of the four teams to progress but it's all cyclical.

In 2008 there were realistically three English teams that could win it. Three of them were in the semi-finals and then two in the final. Football always works in cycles so it was never going to last – but it will come back again.

But the Premier League arguably needs some positive results this week to show English teams can still be a force to be reckoned with against the top clubs in Spain and Germany.

Last week was a sobering dose of reality so it is up to United and Chelsea to deliver some good news in the next few days. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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