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Soccer-Man United must raise their game on all fronts

Reuters

LONDON, Dec 11 (Reuters) - David Moyes can take solace in avoiding another home defeat and a 51-year low but his Manchester United side will have to raise their game considerably if they are to go much further in the Champions League.

United enter the knockout stages as Group A winners but the 1-0 victory over Ukrainians Shakhtar Donetsk was far from convincing even if it took some of the pressure off the manager's shoulders.

"I think the club itself needs to be classed as one of the favourites but I think we all know we as a team have to improve if we are to keep progressing in the competition," the Scot told reporters.

Statistically, the haul of 14 points from a possible 18 represents United's best showing in the Champions League group stage since 2007-08 but the story could have been very different.

Phil Jones's second half goal was United's first in five hours and 10 minutes of play with the Reds desperate to avoid a third straight defeat at Old Trafford for the first time since 1962.

Beaten at home in the Premier League by Everton and Newcastle United, the evidence of Tuesday night was that the rot had been papered over rather than stopped.

"I thought there wasn't much difference to the Everton and Newcastle games," said Moyes, who gave his team a stern talking to at halftime. "Tonight we got the goal. In those other games, Everton and Newcastle got the goal. It's been that way since I came here.

"We passed the ball much better after we had given it away terribly in the first half and that's not like us," added the manager, whose side are ninth and 13 points adrift of leaders Arsenal in the Premier League.

EXPERIENCED

Former United captain Roy Keane, now a television pundit, was blunt in his assessment of where the club were at in the first season of the post-Alex Ferguson era.

United, he said, did not look like a team and were instead "just a collection of individuals running around".

"You can defend players for making mistakes, but you cannot defend players for not tackling and not getting close to people," he added.

When Moyes stepped into Ferguson's shoes at Old Trafford, he did so with question marks over how he would fare in Europe but confidence that he knew his way around the Premier League after a decade at Everton.

The irony is that Europe has brought Moyes more respite than domestic competition, an imbalance that will now occupy most of his attention with the Champions League on a break until February.

"They (the players) are well experienced in European football so I think they are more than capable of playing at this level," said Moyes.

"They are also very comfortable in the Premier League but at the moment they are not showing it."

United are at Aston Villa in the league on Sunday. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Patrick Johnston)

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