Déjà vu - Has David Moyes lost his biggest psychological battle of the season?

David Moyes

Manchester United are still reeling from defeat in the derby two weeks ago - and history suggests David Moyes' struggles are nothing new.

The Old Trafford outfit edged past Liverpool 1-0 in the Capital One Cup, before falling to a 2-1 defeat against West Brom at the weekend. 

The players looked lethargic and out of ideas. The creativity was missing, the defence non-existent at times. Two days ago, Moyes admitted his team lacked world class players, lowering fan expectations ahead of Wednesday's Champions League tie against Shakhtar Donetsk.

It looks like the 4-1 defeat at the Etihad Stadium will have a lasting impact on Manchester United's season. Moyes was, once again, outwitted by Manuel Pellegrini in a big match - an occasion possibly bigger than Everton's Champions League qualifier against Villarreal back in 2005.

Predicted Manchester United starting XI v Shakhtar Donetsk

Back then, a baby-faced Moyes surpassed all expectations by finishing fourth in the league with Everton and breaking the top four monopoly. It was at a time when English clubs were starting to gain a foothold in European football's premier club competition. Liverpool had triumphed in Istanbul, Chelsea had made it into the semi-finals for two consecutive seasons. 

In the third qualifying round, during the summer of 2005, Moyes' Everton faced Pellegrini's Villarreal in a two-legged tie. The prize - a place in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League. In the end, the Toffees lost 1-2 at home, and  2-1 away (4-2 on aggregate). Pellegrini had got the better of Moyes on the stage where it mattered most.

The defeat had an unprecedented impact on Everton's season. It wasn't long before Moyes' men were humiliated in the UEFA Cup, losing 5-2 on aggregate to Dinamo Bucureşti. Player morale was at an all-time low and Moyes struggled to lift his players. By the end of October, the Toffees were in the relegation zone.

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A spate of new signings including Nuno Valente, Andy van der Meyde, Simon Davies, and Phil Neville led a late rally which saw Everton finish the campaign in 11th - a season after breaking into the top four.

Fast forward to 2013 and one must ask - has defeat to Pellegrini's Manchester City - United's biggest rivals last season - impacted on Moyes in a similar way?

Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday is a huge game. The fans are looking for signs of recovery - and it begins with the manager.

Can David Moyes cope with his biggest managerial challenge to date?

image: © Jason Gulledge

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