Manchester United’s Champions League group presents them with many challenges but they should have enough to get through.
David Moyes would have been happy yesterday, not ecstatic, when the names of the teams he’d face in the Champions League came out in draw and ultimately, things could have been a lot worse for him.
Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen and Real Sociedad are no pushovers and each side will present United with different challenges and difficulties which will need to be overcome for United to make the knock out stages.
Shakhtar are very interesting to gauge because instantly people will point to their performances against Chelsea last season.
They do play good football but they have been weakened through the loss of key players, most notably Willian and Fernandinho, who have subsequently made moves to the Premier League.
The distance angle is also very significant for United when they go to Shakhtar, with former manager Sir Alex Ferguson always very critical of having to travel long distances in the Champions League before getting back for weekend Premier League games.
United should have more than enough to get the better of the Ukrainian side.
Bayer Leverkusen will probably be a team that Moyes will relish going up against because they are typically German in the respect that they play good, efficient and organised football.
Leverkusen will probably provide the biggest test for Moyes in a tactical sense and it will be interesting to see how he gets on.
They will probably also be the toughest away match that United face in the competition group stage this season because the Bundesliga and German sides are the most supported across Europe.
Real Sociedad could provide the biggest headache despite the fact they were drawn from the pot of apparently weakest teams, pot four.
Athletic Bilbao showed in the Europa League a couple of seasons back that United are vulnerable to teams that can keep the ball on the floor and completely dominate possession.
Sociedad definitely have it within them to be able to play good, skilful and technically astute football which is always going to be difficult for any side to deal with.
A lot of it is all going to come down to hoe Moyes sets his teams up and the tactics he uses for each different side at both home and away.
He can start by doing the basics like playing extremely aggressive football at Old Trafford and using a more cautious system away from home. He also has the benefit of being able to bend Fergie’s ear over how to handle the side throughout.
What do you think? Will United get through?
image: © Jason Gulledge