Champions League: European dream possible

File photo of David Moyes

Many would have wondered how David Moyes could be as bold as to say Manchester United could win the Champions League this season.

When club captain Nemanja Vidic got in on the act, eyes would have rolled, probably even among swathes of United faithful.

Bayern Munich have been a remorseless machine, Barcelona have Lionel Messi and Real Madrid show off Cristiano Ronaldo. United take on Olympiakos in the first leg of their last-16 tie tomorrow morning (Singapore time) in sixth spot in the Premier League, out of the two domestic Cup competitions and having already lost 10 times under Moyes this season.

Considering the English champions look almost certain to miss out on a top-four spot in the English Premier League, Moyes' bullish remarks surely seem wildly off the mark. Gary Pallister doesn't think so.

When posed the question by The New Paper on Monday, the former defensive stalwart claimed that the Red Devils have a squad good enough to win the biggest club prize in European football this season. "Were Chelsea genuine favourites when they won the Champions League (in 2012)? Were Liverpool in 2005?" Pallister asked. "We've got the players capable of winning it."

"Do we have to play better than we have been? Yes, of course.

"But we stand a good chance of progressing to the quarter-finals as we play Olympiakos.

"After that, anything can happen in the Champions League - as we've seen in the past."

The gregarious ex-England and United player was in town to promote the "United Trophy Tour" in conjunction with DHL.

Ferguson signed Pallister in 1989.

He had a difficult start at Old Trafford but, alongside Steve Bruce, went on to form one of the most formidable central defensive partnerships in the club's history.

Pallister, 48, won four league titles, three FA Cups and the Cup Winners' Cup as a Red Devil, and also collected 22 caps for England. He will have some idea of the pressure Moyes is under, but he backs the 50-year-old Scotsman to come good at Old Trafford. "It's been a tough season so far, but Moyes is still getting to know the players and vice-versa," said Pallister.

TOUGH TRANSITION

"The transition from Sir Alex Ferguson was never going to be an easy one, but I do think Moyes is the right man for the job.

"I've been saying that even before he was appointed. He's got many similar traits with Sir Alex.

"Some of United's performances have been poor this season. "But it's not too different from last season when we won the league... you could say some of the luck we had then have deserted us now."

The recent news of Wayne Rooney's lucrative five-and-a-half year contract extension of £300,000 ($630,000) a week was hailed by Moyes and members of the squad. With Juan Mata cup-tied, Moyes will count on the performances of Robin van Persie and Rooney to propel them to European glory, starting against Olympiakos in Athens. Pallister described the Rooney deal as "an important signing".

"Rooney has deserved the new contract. He, along with Adnan Januzaj, have been the best performers for United this season," he said.

"There was a lot of conjecture over the past year on whether he would go to Chelsea, but this deal puts all that behind him."

There are some who believe Rooney has been shorn of the explosiveness he showed when he burst onto the scene as a 16-year-old with Everton and then with England at the 2004 European Championships. Ferguson played him as a lone striker, a second striker, in midfield and down the flanks, and Rooney's versatility, some claim, has hindered his progress into football's elite company.

While admitting the Liverpudlian was below par the last two seasons, Pallister says Rooney is showing signs of his best form. "Wayne, I'm sure, didn't like playing in midfield or out wide, but he did it well for the benefit of the team," said Pallister.

"He's got his mojo back now and he's been looking sharp. "Hopefully, his partnership with van Persie will get stronger now that they're both fit."

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