Shakhtar Donetsk manager Mircea Lucescu declared today ahead of his club’s Champions League tie against Manchester United that David Moyes is creating problems by tinkering with his team, who are not the trophy-winning machine they were 15 years ago.
The vastly experienced 68-year-old Romanian coach will take charge of his 109th Champions league game tomorrow night while Moyes will be managing his fourth. He said that Sir Alex Ferguson's successor must be given time because "there will always be a change of philosophy under a new coach." But Lucescu broke into English at his press conference to reinforce his belief that it can be damaging to change a side between games, as Moyes has done in his struggle to find the right recipe. "I think turnover can cause a lot of problems sometimes," he said, having declared in Romanian that the Ukrainian side had noticed that Moyes was rotating. There were eight changes to United's starting XI between the Manchester Derby and the League Cup win over Liverpool, with a further seven for the weekend defeat to West Bromwich Albion.
"Maybe we can see four or five new players and maybe the links between the players are not that good but maybe we are facing the same problems here," Lucescu said. "The other big teams in the [English] championship don't rotate as much as Manchester United and maybe that is why they don't play with the same skill."
Donetsk are by no means an insuperable force for United to face, despite the fact that a draw here would represent a good result for United in possibly the toughest game of Group A, at a time when Moyes' charges are reeling under their worst domestic start since 1989. The Ukrainian side have suffered their most disappointing start in five years and Lucescu publicly rued the loss of Willlian, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Fernandino to Anzhi, Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City in the past 18 months. "It's a different team now. It is one thing to lose one player and another to lose a group of players. We have lost a group of players," he said.
But United have struggled against fast attacking sides - "It is quite difficult to find a Shaktar-style team in the Premier league," Lucescu said - and the manager observed that it would take time for Ferguson's successor to adapt to his new role. "Of course we know the work of Moyes, especially at Everton, and we know this is one of the strongest English coaches. He needs time to share ideas with the players. Ancelotti has needed some time taking over from Mourinho [at Real Madrid]. [Manuel] Pellegrini [at Manchester City] is the same. Let's hope they find it but after tomorrow."
Lucescu said he had faced Ferguson when Inter Milan manager, 14 years ago, in the Champions League quarter final which saw United win 2-0 at Old Trafford and progress with a 1-1 draw at San Siro, in the year they beat Bayern Munich in the final. "I've very good memories of this game and United played well that time," said the manager, who revealed that his striker Luis Adriano has shrugged off a hip injury to be in contention to start tomorrow night.
"That was a machine for winning trophies and it was an English team," Lucescu observed. "Now it's more international and harder to compare. Football is now more intense. They had great player likes Giggs and Beckham in Manchester 15 years ago and played and won against the likes of Juventus, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich."
Lucescu warned that there would be a "cauldron" awaiting the Premier League Champions - and the 52,000-capacity Donbass Arena is sold out. "Champions League games are always a kind of celebration or holiday for our city and we expecting this to be a joy," he said. "Since I've been manager [here] I've not played against four top European teams - Real Madrid, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Liverpool. Well, tomorrow we face Manchester United and let's hope we continue our path in the Champions League and play against the top teams. Our players must be very determined."