Captain’s Performance Leads To Showdown In Munich
David Moyes’ men last night rose to the occasion and produced a possibly season defining performance at Old Trafford. Before the game there had been much hype about the possible cricket score that Bayern could rack up, yet a 1-1 draw displaying fight, hunger and desire will have given every United fan a glimmer of hope going into the second leg.
Whether it was the pre-match mosaic, or the deafening home support, United’s players lifted themselves to a relatively new level this season and firmly shut down the German Visitors and although the captain’s goal from Nemanja Vidic was cancelled out by Schweinsteiger’s effort, United will head to Munich with a chance of progression.
As the team news was released, it looked like Moyes was going to adopt a 4-5-1 formation with Valencia and Welbeck out wide and a three-man central midfield. However, this occasionally developed into 4-4-1-1 with Rooney tucking in behind Welbeck and, at times, even Fellaini.
It was the born and bred Mancunian Welbeck who took the stage first. After dubiously having a goal disallowed, the striker’s pace and acceleration continued to toil and tamper with a slow Bayern defence.
Defensively, the ageing partnership of Rio and Vidic wound back the years to produce a vintage performance. Complimenting each other brilliantly, they marshalled the defence with an Iron Curtain, maintaining their discipline throughout.
De Gea wasn’t called upon until the half hour mark but when he was he dived heroically to his right to stop a goal bound curling strike from Robben. Ribery and Robben were being restricted to outside the box chances, with Alex Buttner putting in the shift of his life at left back.
As half time approached, Welbeck was played through by Rooney and, when Boateng slipped, the whole crowd rose in anticipation. It was however not to be as, perhaps due to inexperience, Welbeck opted to attempt a chip instead of burying it low and Neuer was equal to the effort. The first 45 minutes definitely belonged to United, who had so far managed to contain the ‘tika taka’ football, as Jones and the aforementioned Buttner maintained their marshalling down the flanks.
The second half began with the intensity of the first as Shinji Kagawa was introduced for the anonymous Giggs, injecting some more pace and urgency into the side. From the outset, it was visible that United had a goal in their armoury and it came when the Japanese international won a corner down the left.
Wayne Rooney whipped in a paced delivery and Vidic rose highest to glance it into the corner. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Old Trafford descended into ecstasy. The captains love affair with United will end this summer, but a crucial goal showed fans undoubtedly what they will miss. The crowd took to chanting his name loud and clear, as the goal lifted the team.
The lead however was not long lived. Ten minutes later, the flank of Buttner finally cracked, a delivery was headed back from Manduzkic into Schweinsteiger who comfortably cushioned his volley into the net. A bitter blow to United’s ambitions, but head’s remained high, and the pressure continued.
From that point on United struggled and were restricted to counter attacking efforts. After his goal, Schweinsteiger’s night then turned sour after he saw red for a second yellow when he slid in on Rooney, perhaps key to United’s hopes. A Bayern midfield without Javi Martinez, Schweinsteiger and Thiago surely inspires hope into a side. Full time blew to a memorable night in Europe for Manchester United, the efforts and commitment of players admirable right to the depth. David Moyes had outwitted Pep Guardiola at Old Trafford.
Overall, the player’s performances last night were top drawer, everyone excelled. The main exception was Fellani, who seems to struggle to string together a level of consistency in a red shirt. Yes, our long balls were brought down superbly by his chest every time, but he offered little creativity in the middle of the park. It was down to Kagawa, Rooney and Welbeck to inspire this. The later having an excellent game before being subbed for Chicharito. Moyes now faces a tough question; Does he rest everyone for Newcastle in anticipation of going through to the semi-finals?