If one had asked a fan of Manchester United at the beginning of this season if a Champions League Round of 16 exit at the hands of Olympiacos would be embarrassing, almost all of them would have said yes. But the reality of United's current situation is that it would be just another disappointing result in a season full of very bitter disappointments. At this point, reality has set in that United won't be winning anything or finishing top four. They lost 3-0 to Liverpool over the weekend. They can't really be embarrassed any further.
Of course, that won't stop fans of every club that isn't Manchester United from laughing at their misfortune if they fail to pull off a comeback and advance past Olympiacos on Wednesday. After years of watching United pull last-minute victories out of absolutely nowhere, it's difficult for many to avoid laughing at their newfound misfortune. They're the greatest example of a schadenfreude-generating side in recent memory.
That said, there's probably something at stake for David Moyes on Wednesday, at least in the way of personal pride. It's not like a big win here is going to save his job -- the board probably have their minds made up on whether or not he'll remain United boss beyond this season already -- but it might help him feel a bit better about his abilities and aid his future job prospects, should his current employers opt not to retain him.
Whether you're a United supporter, an ABU or a true neutral, you'll find something to enjoy about this contest. It doesn't matter if United win in a blowout, turn in their worst performance of the season, fall just short or sneak through in true Fergie fashion. It's going to be entertaining.
First leg score
Olympiacos 2-0 Manchester United. Think not getting an away goal will come back to haunt the Red Devils?
Manchester United have most of their first choice players, but their bench is looking a bit thin. Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck are all out injured. Juan Mata is cup-tied, robbing David Moyes of one of his best players. The United manager has said that Shinji Kagawa should start the match, so expect him to slot right into Mata's place.
Olympiacos are only missing two players for sure. Michael Olaitan is out with an illness, while Dimitris Siovas is a long-term absentee. Javier Saviola, who missed the first leg, has recently returned to training and could feature on Wednesday. Ivan Marcano missed some time with an injury after the first leg, but like Saviola, has returned to full training and traveled with the team.
Projected lineups (left to right)
Olympiacos (4-2-3-1): Rafael; Jose Holebas, Ivan Marcano, Kostas Manolas, Leandro Salino; Giannis Maniatis, Delvin N'Dinga; Hernan Perez, Alejandro Dominguez, Joel Campbell; Nelson Valdez
Vidic (and/or Ferdinand) vs. Father Time - There's a reason that Manchester United won't be renewing the contracts of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand this summer: They're not very good anymore. Formerly one of the greatest central defense pairings on earth, Vidic and Ferdinand started to look old last season and have looked extremely old this season. United will need a decent performance from whichever one of them starts -- if not both of them -- to have a chance to mount a comeback. That would have been a near certainty two years ago, but central defense is now the weakest part of this team. Phil Jones will probably start, but he was a disaster over the weekend and has always been an inconsistent defender. He can't carry a passenger of a partner.
Robin van Persie vs. all of Olympiacos' central players - Olympiacos is very good at clogging the center of the pitch and Robin van Persie has not been good about taking matters into his own hands when the players behind him struggle. Van Persie was unmarkable last season, but he's struggled to find the ball when Wayne Rooney hasn't been on the top of his game. While Rooney needs to play better, van Persie needs to do more than just stand around and wait for the ball.
Olympiacos built a strong enough lead that United won't be able to pull ahead quickly. This average United team probably isn't capable of going up 3-0 in the first half against Olympiacos, especially given how defensively the Greeks are likely to play. Expect United to advance, but by the skin of their teeth. 2-0 United, and the Red Devils advance after extra time or on penalties.