The Liverpool game and the Champions League tie against Olympiakos have the makings of a memorable four days
Something momentous could happen at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon. It might be a definitive day in the managerial career of David Moyes, Brendan Rodgers or both. Liverpool have won only once in their past 11 visits to United's ground but this time they are higher in the league and favourites. The one thing Sunday's game will not do is live up to its original billing and settle the battle for fourth place. Liverpool have climbed too high and Manchester United slipped too far behind for that to happen – and Moyes knows it.
"I view the game as a chance to take three points from one of the teams above us," the Manchester United manager said. "For me to talk about finishing in a Champions League position would be misplaced. I am not close enough to it. All I can talk about is winning the next game and getting closer to it."
The Champions League position Moyes is happy to talk about is the two-goal deficit United must try to recover against Olympiakos on Wednesday. It might be too much to hope that United could qualify for next season's Champions League by winning this season's competition – fourth place in the Premier League appears more achievable based on the insipid performance in Athens – yet getting through to the last eight is important to Moyes. Not only would it allow United the satisfaction of lasting longer in Europe than Manchester City and Arsenal, who both went out last week, it would give them the opportunity to atone for the wretched first leg. Should United get past Olympiakos, the 2-0 defeat in Greece will be quickly forgotten. Should they stumble again, or fail to win by a sufficient margin, the result Moyes insists was an aberration will follow him around for the rest of his United days.
"We are going into the game against Liverpool in a much better mood than we have been for a while," he says. "We played well at West Brom last week and, if you take the Olympiakos game out, we have played well in the last month.
"I know you can't just take games in and out but I think we have been showing signs of improvement. The game in Greece was the only one in the last month or so where we've had a blip."
Moyes could have done without having to face relaxed, confident Liverpool three days before the Olympiakos return, so that United's whole season could end up being defined by a single week. But it was the team's uncharacteristically passive display in Athens that ramped up the personal pressure.
"You cannot split the two games in terms of importance," Moyes says. "The only thing you can say is that the next game is always the most important. We'll do everything we possibly can to try to win against Liverpool and then everyone knows we'll go all guns blazing to try to come back from 2-0 down against Olympiakos."
The manager's positivity cannot be faulted, though it has been a while since United were seen with one or two guns blazing, let alone all of them, and a measure of caution is needed when chasing a 2-0 deficit in Europe. Throw too much into attack and a single goal for the visitors could alter the whole dynamic. "We all know what we have to do on the night," Moyes says. "We can't be reckless because we don't want to leave ourselves too big a mountain to climb, but the idea is to go for the throat and try and win the game.
"We will be as forceful as we can, and the crowd can play its part as well. When we went to Olympiakos their crowd made its presence felt and I am hoping for a big night at Old Trafford when ours can do the same."