Bayern Munich vs. Manchester United
One team has won its domestic league with 7 games to spare. The other is in 7th and on the brink of no European football next season. One team has played in the Champions League final 3 of the past 4 seasons. The other has reached its first Champions League quarterfinal in 3 seasons.The most decorated young manager in the modern game vs. a manager still trying to find his way.
This had all the makings of a total mismatch verging on humiliation, as opposed to being a genuine battle between European heavyweights. So when Manchester United managed to come away with a 1-1 draw actually feeling a bit hard done, it was a rather pleasant surprise for Manchester United fans around the world.
First Half: Bayern dominate
No one really expected Manchester United to try and play an open, possession oriented game against Bayern. But Bayern were able to effortlessly string passes together and created a few dangerous moments early on. Rafinha bombed forward down the right to overlap with Robben allowing the latter to cut inside. Kroos always had an out-ball towards that side as Welbeck stayed forward and Rooney dropped onto Lahm.
Fellaini and Jones were often the ones winning the ball back though but too often gave it away so United never really established possession. Robben and Ribery had a lot of space to run into, but no one was available to pick up from their cutbacks or crosses as Muller struggled against Vidic and Ferdinand.
Danny Welbeck tends to shine on big European nights. Last year he was probably the best attacking player against Real Madrid in both legs and this year he was a menace for Javi Martinez and Jerome Boateng. He had a goal chalked off in the first 5 minutes for a high boot and he tried to chip Neuer 1v1. He also applied pressure on Neuer as he attempted to pass it from the back. Overall, he’ll be disappointed he didn’t get a goal but he’s definitely showing signs of improvement.
Second Half: Kagawa’s introduction a calculated gamble.
At the restart, David Moyes made a bold attacking move in bringing on Shinji Kagawa for a supposedly injured Ryan Giggs. Kagawa instantly brought a bit of stability to United and they subsequently kept possession better: 39% in the second half as opposed to 22% in the first half. This created a much more open game and the best chances fell to United on the counter-attack. Rafinha didn’t overlap as much, probably due to tiredness, but perhaps because of Kagawa’s combination play with Rooney and Welbeck.
On Bayern’s side, Mandzukic’s introduction was important as they chased the game. He’s a more classic striker, as opposed to the more mobile Thomas Muller. His knockdown led to Schweinsteiger’s equalizer. Bayern had spent a lot of energy playing on the front foot and dominating possession so at 1-1, they seemed rather content to preserve the draw and the rest of the game was fairly subdued.
United have really saved their best performances for the Champions League. So far, Moyes has lost just once in the Champions League and has guided the team farther than in each of the previous two seasons. Manchester United showed some real guts and determination that would make any football manager happy.
That being said, a 1-1 draw isn’t all that good. It leaves United with a chance, but they have to get at least a goal in Munich meaning they have to be more open. This plays into Bayern’s hands as they can patiently pass it around and draw United out of their shell, even if they won’t have Bastian Schweinsteiger or Martinez. Dante’s a more natural centerback and Gotze is a more direct attacker. United will have to be wary of Bayern’s movement, but they have to be a bit more adventurous going forward. After all, this is the only chance United have of playing in the Champions League next season.
United were far brighter in attack when Shinji Kagawa came on as they could keep possession (relatively) better. They will have Patrice Evra available after serving his one-game suspension, although his positioning sometimes makes him a liability. Rafael could potentially be fit next week, but Jones put in a good shift against Ribery. Definitely some decisions for Moyes to make. He’ll rue the missed chances by Welbeck, but he can also count himself lucky that Bayern didn’t go ahead early.