When Ukranian football was mentioned images of Lobanovskyi and his marauding Dynamo Kyiv team were the default, however, the order has changed and in the modern era many fans have become familiar with the countries second team Shakhtar Donetsk; firstly with ex-Parma legend Nevio Scala and then continued and enhanced by Romanian Mircea Lucescu, who this year became the club’s longest-serving coach.
Donetsk’s club philosophy is, “to believe in football as a celebration of human potential, ambition and achievement”. A lofty statement which has been backed up with seven national titles, five domestic cups and the 2008/09 UEFA Cup all secured under the Lucescu stewardship, through a defensively motivated team who were aggressive and enjoyed playing on the counter. This is a fascinating because we know that Shakthar are a destination for Brazilian players and not always just as a stepping stone to other teams in Europe, so to be labelled with this style bearing in mind their makeup of players shows the influence Lucescu has.
There has however been many changes in the last year, Willian to Chelsea via Anzhi, Mkhitaryan to Dortmund and Fernandinho to City. Thus a new era was to be ushered in; further Brazilians were added in the form of midfielders Bernard and Fred and striker Wellington Nem (in addition to familiar face Eduardo).
The usual domestic dominance has not quite gone as planned this season and performances against ‘lesser teams’, such as the draw against local rivals Metalurh Donetsk at the weekend, has echoes of United’s indifferent start to the season.
In this game they appeared uninterested and reactive rather than proactive and demanding of themselves to win the game.
In their game against Sociedad, their first match of Group A, they were very much the team under pressure and sustained a number of shots yet they came away with the victory.
Their goals were scored by Teixeira who plays behind Luis Adriano in a 4-2-3-1 which remained rigid throughout except for the tightening up of the midfield two of Fernando and Stepanenko (who replaced Hubschman) following their 2-0 lead.
Adriano was rarely in the game and relied on his runs rather than his passing, a low rate of 25% (compared to his colleagues who achieved 60-80%); United must be wary of this ploy as it allows Teixeira to play freely due to the occupation of the central defenders with Adriano. They must also be mindful of Srna who made a number of forward runs, unlike his opposite number Shevchuk.
Injury doubt Adriano has been confirmed as fit and Lucescu believes that he and Moyes will field strong teams; we would expect nothing less despite Lucescu’s assessment that United rotate, perhaps too much, and as such the team is difficult to predict. Interestingly he also feels that this rotation has resulted in the poor performances of late.
A lot will be made of this result; the Donbass Arena is not an easy place to visit and perhaps the players will be mindful of Moyes statement, “To win the Champions League, you need five or six world-class players. That’s the level you have to be at to win it. We’ve not got that yet but what we have got is experience.” Was this a shot across their bows from Moyes and a challenge to get the players to show their credentials or will they wilt under another examination?
We look forward to another Champions League night as always.