Fate of Moyes, May Rest on a Bit-part Defender - The New Indian Express

Fate of Moyes, May Rest on a Bit-part Defender

Published: 31st March 2014 11:33 AM

Last Updated: 31st March 2014 05:46 PM

After a week in which much was said of the legacy left by Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, the fate of his successor, David Moyes, may yet rest on a bit-part defender who was brought to the club by the former manager 19 months ago.

Alexander Buttner will be forced into action at left-back for United in their Champions League quarter-final first-leg tie with Bayern Munich tomorrow (Tuesday) as replacement for the suspended Patrice Evra.

Read: Manchester United in Awe of Bayern's Success

Solid enough in recent victories against West Ham and, here, a stroll over Aston Villa, Buttner has, nevertheless, started just seven league games for United since joining from Vitesse Arnhem, a particularly modest statistic given the fall off in form of the ageing Evra.

Now, the 25-year-old Dutchman faces the most daunting challenge of his so-far underwhelming United career, a confrontation with his countryman Arjen Robben and the defending European champions in an encounter which may have as big a bearing on his United future as on that of Moyes.

"I have played two games now and I am starting to get a good feeling because I thought I played well against West Ham and Villa," the defender said. "It is a big game on Tuesday but it is a chance for me to show what I can do.

"It has been vital for me to get the two matches because it would have been difficult not to play and then to have to face a big game like Bayern.

Read: United Head Into Home Game as Underdogs

"I feel confident about playing them. I know what Arjen Robben can do and I am ready for him. I know enough from what I have seen to know how he plays the game. It is not under discussion how good he is, we all know that.

"This kind of big game is why you play football. It is what it is all about and it would be good for my career if I could do well against Robben. In the last two matches I have played well, put in some good challenges and I hope I will build on that not just -Bayern but after that as well."

Buttner need not be told that he can expect a far sterner test against the Germans than he received against West Ham and Villa. Despite a superb Ashley Westwood opening free-kick, and a number of near misses by Christian Benteke when they trailed by a goal, Villa were distinctly average opponents for United.

A Wayne Rooney header and -penalty, both goals carved out by the excellent Shinji Kagawa, plus late efforts from the equally impressive Juan Mata and Javier Hernandez ensured that a day that started with talk of fans' protests and disquiet towards the United manager ended with Moyes wearing a rare smile on his face.

Read: One Blip, Its Bye-Bye Champions League!

Of course, such a mood can change quickly and, presumably, anything less than credible defeat over the two legs against Bayern and Moyes will once more see his short-term future the subject of intense speculation.

In that context, it will be interesting to see whether Moyes retains the attack-minded Kagawa in his midfield for tomorrow's home leg or makes a more cautious selection which would, arguably, be in keeping with his general approach to date in his United career.

At least Moyes retains options after right-back Rafael, substituted at half-time against Villa with a thigh injury, declared himself fit for tomorrow with the Brazilian keen to make amends for his last appearance against Bayern, when his red card at Old Trafford contributed to United exiting the competition in 2010.

"It's 100 per cent it's on my mind still, I will never forget that," Rafael said. "I played so good in the first half but then I got sent off like I did so it's just learning. It cost United the match. It was a lot of help for Bayern when they played against 10 men and I learned from that.

"Bayern are better now. They have similar players. But [goalkeeper Manuel] Neuer is there and others too. But everyone is beatable in football. If you speak about United, we are the best club in the world. The history is fantastic. After what happened in '99 everything is possible."

Relying on the spirit of that 1999 European final victory against Munich could be interpreted as just another indication of how far - and fast - the reigning English champions have fallen from their lofty perch and Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert found it difficult to make a case for United advancing.

"You are up against the favourites - or one of the favourites - to do it again," he said. "They're unbeaten in a lot of games. It's going to be really tough, you wouldn't back against United but they are going to have to play - over two legs - one of the best teams in Europe at the minute."

For Lambert, whose side hover above the relegation picture and who face Manchester City and Tottenham in the final week of the season, there is the more mundane matter of guaranteeing Premier League survival to occupy him.

"We want to do it as quick as we can," he said. "We've got another big game [against Fulham] next week. I don't know how many points it will take but I'm not sure it will be as many as 40."

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