Manchester United visit Newcastle United on Saturday knowing they cannot afford the sort of regression that has too often followed improved performances in this season’s Champions League.
Manager David Moyes, enduring a troubled first season in charge, was pleased with the “terrific” performance in a 1-1 draw at home to European champions Bayern Munich in the quarter-final first leg on Tuesday.
But after good wins over Bayer Leverkusen (twice) and Olympiakos Piraeus in European competition, United quickly fell to earth again with a bump in the Premier League.
Soon after winning 5-0 away to Leverkusen in November, they suffered successive home defeats to Everton and Newcastle, neither of whom had won at Old Trafford for many years.
The return leg against Bayern next Wednesday is more important to United’s season, but Moyes said: “The only thing we are thinking about is the Newcastle game. We have to go up there and put on a good performance and get three points, trying to build a little bit of momentum towards the end of the season. We will go there and try to do that.”
Ten points behind fourth-placed Arsenal with only six League games left, United seem certain to miss out on a Champions League place next season for the first time since 1995-96.
Moyes said defenders Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans were in contention for a place against Newcastle, although Ryan Giggs is doubtful after picking up an injury in the Bayern game.