David Moyes says Manchester United must 'improve to progress', despite reaching Champions League knock-out stage

United top group despite unconvincing home victory over Shakhtar Donetsk

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The Independent Football

Manchester United manager David Moyes admitted his side’s football was no better in victory over Shakhtar Donetsk than it had been in successive home defeats to Everton and Newcastle United, after a half-time dressing down from him was required to shake the side out of their malaise.

United have progressed as winners of their Champions League qualifying group, avoiding Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich until the quarter finals but former United midfielder Roy Keane said at the interval of the 1-0 win that “they don't look like a team, just a collection of individuals running around. You can defend players for making mistakes but you cannot defend players for not tackling and not getting close to people.”

Moyes said that United “as a club” were favourites to progress from the group of 16 in February – when they play their first game away – but they had to improve if they were to do so. “I think the club itself needs to be classed as one of the favourites but I think we all know we as a team have to improve if we are to keep progressing in the competition,” he said. “Hopefully we have given ourselves the best chance by winning the group. For a club like Manchester United, you always have to try to win the trophy. That's the job. I think the teams in this competition are very, very good as everyone knows. But you need to try and get better as the tournament goes on.”

The manager said he had been tough with them at half time. “To be honest, it's been that way since I came here,” he said. “We need to win matches and the players responded well to that encouragement. We passed the ball much better after we had given it away terribly in the first half and that's not like us. I didn't think we were close enough to them early on when we gave them too many opportunities and we were fortunate not to be a goal down.

But despite the first period in which the Ukrainians dominated possession and could have sealed the tie, Moyes said that he answered those who pointed to his own lack of Champions League experience.“I think you want to try and win the group,” he said. “It was a difficult group and a lot has been said [about how] I was inexperienced in the Champions League so to have my first experience, I am happy to top the group.

 “We didn’t play particularly well in the opening 30 minutes, we could have been fortunate still to be 0-0 but we missed a couple of chances just before half time ourselves. We played much better in the second half.”

As to why United had won four and drawn two of their European games while struggling domestically, Moyes said: “If I had the answer I would have solved it by now and it would all be OK.”

Keane’s sharpest criticism was directed at Ashley Young, who missed two gilt-edged chances in the first half. “He should certainly hit the target. I think it sums up his time at Man United, just not good enough,” Keane said. “David Moyes took the heat off the players before the game by saying it is his responsibility but we are talking about experienced players. Of Rio Ferdinand, who frequently conceded possession, he said: “Rio Ferdinand's decision making, the chances he has taken, it is ridiculous. It is like his debut tonight. There are big question marks over the manager and the players. That for Manchester United is certainly not good enough.'”

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