Champions League: David Moyes delighted to be on the biggest stage ahead of Manchester United v Bayer Leverkusen

Manager finally reaches Champions League – and pledges he will ‘do everything to win it’

Just before Manchester United’s most important game against Bayer Leverkusen, the one in 2002 that had a place in a European Cup final in Sir Alex Ferguson’s home city of Glasgow at stake, Roy Keane looked around him. There, as the Champions League anthem played, he noticed one of his team-mates, whom the Irishman  untypically refused to name, “shaking with nerves”.

There will be a shiver running through David Moyes’s body as the music plays at Old Trafford tonight but it will be of anticipation rather than fear. When the realisation he would be succeeding Ferguson began to roll through his mind, it would have been occasions like this that would have seemed most thrilling.

 

Follow the latest news and score from tonight's match - LIVE - by clicking here

 

No stadium in England transforms itself for European nights quite like Old Trafford. On Saturday against Crystal Palace the atmosphere was flat and  routine in a way it seldom is at Anfield. However, under the floodlights it  becomes what it is, one of the world’s great arenas. As he gave his first Champions League press conference, Moyes was sitting in a room in which there were 15 separate photographs of United players and managers with the European Cup.

His own taste of Europe had been fleetingly brief. As an 18-year-old an injury to Danny McGrain had seen him pitched into the Celtic back four that attempted to keep a glitteringly talented Juventus side at bay.

His years at Everton gave him one shot at the Champions League. They were drawn in a qualifier against Villarreal in 2005 and lost narrowly with the performance of the celebrity referee, Pierluigi Collina, sticking in Moyes’ throat as they flew through the night back to Merseyside. At least there was the consolation of the Uefa Cup. Everton took another flight, this time to Bucharest, and lost 5-1.

“I have always wanted to get to the Champions League,” he said. “I did everything I possibly could at Everton to reach it and I couldn’t quite make that happen. Now, at Manchester United I am going to do everything I possibly can to win it.”

Alongside him, preparing for the opening fixture against Leverkusen, was Rio Ferdinand. It says something for the standards at United that Ferdinand once remarked that he had spent the summer wondering whether the club had enjoyed a good enough season. United had won the league and the League Cup and reached the European Cup final where they had been unable to keep Barcelona at bay.

Something of that swagger seems to have gone, at least in the Champions League. You would have to go back three years to their evisceration of a Milan side that featured David Beckham to find the last time United overcame a major continental power in the competition. Of their last nine European fixtures at Old Trafford under Ferguson, United won just three and that included a victory over Braga in which they had come from two-goals down.

“We have some catching up to do,” said Ferdinand. “It doesn’t matter where you finish in the European Cup, if you don’t win it or reach the final, you have something to prove. Last time, against Real Madrid, we went out in dubious circumstances to say the least but we have to improve.”

When Moyes complained that the start United had been given in the Premier League was as difficult as anyone could remember, he was accused of displaying the paranoia that once came as standard at Old Trafford. He had more than a point and, although Arsenal or Celtic might consider United’s games straightforward, United have been drawn in what for them is an unusually tricky Champions League group, featuring the third-best team in Germany, the fourth-best in Spain (Real Sociedad) and the champions of Ukraine (Shakhtar Donetsk). It is not a group of death but it might be one that carries a risk of serious injury.

It is a rule of thumb in tournament football that the successful team usually emerges from a difficult group. On the two occasions Ferguson lifted the European Cup, United were drawn with Barcelona and Bayern Munich in 1998-99 and in 2007-08 with Roma, Sporting Lisbon and Dynamo Kiev.

They may benefit from being toughened up early and Moyes rejected the suggestion he would rest players with Sunday’s Manchester derby in mind. “My philosophy has always been that the next game is the most important one,” he said. “In time, I may alter my view but I will look no further than Bayer Leverkusen.”

For his counterpart, Sami Hyypia, the photographs of all the European Cups would not be intimidating. He had, after all, won the trophy in the most wildly improbable circumstances with Liverpool in 2005. He smiled when recalling his final 90 minutes in a Liverpool shirt. “It was here and we won 4-1,” he said. “That is the first thought in my mind when I think of Old Trafford but I also remember getting sent off here after four minutes’ play and watching the rest of the game in the dressing room. As a player, it was a much simpler job than the one I have now.”

His job of managing Leverkusen has been carried out remarkably well,  although the departures of André Schürrle to Chelsea and Daniel Carvajal to Real Madrid have lowered expectations. When asked about a long injury list, Hyypia was asked if he would make himself available. “Well,” he replied. “I am afraid I haven’t trained.”

“But I think David Moyes is under more pressure,” Hyypia added. “He has a little bit more experience of this area of football than me. Manchester United are playing at home and they have big expectations. He will have the pressure. We can be quite relaxed, enjoy the stadium and the night.”

Nevertheless, Hyypia may be expecting slightly more. Asked, as his team gathered at Cologne Airport, if he had any hopes for what lay ahead, he replied: “The players should be looking to take more than Wayne Rooney’s autograph back home with them.”

Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
Sport
Rio Ferdinand, Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen and Gary Lineker during Hansen's final broadcast
Sport
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?