David Moyes calls on referees to stick up for Januzaj
MANCHESTER UNITED caused a minor stir by arriving in San Sebastian and asking to leapfrog the home side's press conference, which was scheduled to take place first.
It was put to Real Sociedad's manager that they were behaving like jefes de Europa ('chiefs of Europe'). Even Atilla the Hun was mentioned.
Jagoba Arrasate, a serious man, brushed off that idea, though he articulated a belief that the Basque club could give David Moyes' side a susto – a scare inflicted by an underdog, in the local vernacular.
United will not fret. Their new-found domestic resilience, which has produced four straight wins, has given manager David Moyes a fresh breeziness.
He grinned a lot and was almost garrulous by recent standards on the subject of 18-year-old Adnan Januzaj needing protection from brutal challenges. And he revealed that he is in no hurry to collect pearls of wisdom from Alex Ferguson's autobiography.
Though pictured with it at Manchester Airport early in the day, Moyes declared: "I've not read it yet. I've not opened a page yet."
United will be all but through to the knock-out stage of the Champions League if they win tonight and so reach the golden 10-point target always set by Ferguson.
Though Basque territory has never been fruitful – two defeats to Athletic Bilbao is what they have had to show across the years – continental competition has been smoother than domestic so far for Moyes.
The Scot's only concern was Januzaj. He spoke as the FA announced it had charged Fulham's Sascha Riether with violent misconduct, following his ugly challenge on the teenager in United's 3-1 win at Craven Cottage last Saturday.
Riether is the first player to have been charged retrospectively under a new FA pilot project for 'not seen' incidents in Premier League matches.
The United manager compared 18-year-old Januzaj to Lionel Messi in his ability to pick himself up from illegal challenges and continue to perform. Though he saw the headlines running away with him and qualified himself – "I'm not in any way comparing Adnan to Lionel Messi so don't be saying that!" – he does see the Argentinian's temperament in his young player.
"I'm certainly saying (he mirrors) the way Lionel Messi gets up after being kicked. We hope that's the way Adnan continues to behave too. But he does need a little bit of protection."
Riether's challenge was "a bad stamp," Moyes added. "And it does look deliberate. We (don't want to) find he is getting kicked up and down. I do think he deserves a little bit more (protection) than he is getting."
Arrasate characterised his side as one in a lower stratosphere to United. "It's difficult to compare our teams. You have to look at our budget. The objectives of the teams are very different," he said.
Real Sociedad are already 17 points off the top of La Liga. But they have scored 10 goals in three games since they lost narrowly at Old Trafford, hitting the bar twice after United had scored in the first few minutes.
Moyes is undoubtedly aware that United's record in Spain does not make good reading. Ferguson won only twice in 16 matches here, with the last victory against Valencia more than three years ago.
"I certainly won't take anything for granted," Moyes said. "I have a lot of respect for Sociedad and we will have to play well if we are going to get the three points.
Moyes must plan without Jonny Evans and Rafael da Silva, who did not travel, while there are concerns over the fitness of Michael Carrick.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti can push his former club Juventus and disciple Antonio Conte closer to the Champions League exit door if they win in Turin tonight. After drawing with Galatasaray and Copenhagen and then losing in 2-1 in Madrid two weeks ago, Juve suddenly find themselves fighting for survival.
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 20 goals in 15 Champions League matches and he needs only one more in Real's next three games to match the group stage record of eight in a season, which is held by Ruud van Nistelrooy, Filippo Inzaghi and Hernan Crespo.
Juventus will be without defender Giorgio Chiellini, who was sent off at the Bernabeu a fortnight ago, leaving Claudio Marchisio as the only survivor from the team who beat Real on their last visit to Turin five years ago.
(© Independent News Service)
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