Munich Defeat Leaves European Dreams In Tatters
All eyes turned to the Allianz Arena last night for the United’s quarter-final showdown with Munich but despite a thunderbolt from Patrice Evra to open the scoring, Bayern hit back with three quick goals to end United’s dreams of triumph and leave their European hopes in tatters.
In light of the weekend win away to Newcastle, David Moyes made four changes to the starting XI in an attempt to progress to the next round. Recently, English teams have had a good record in Munich, with Chelsea, Arsenal and City to secure wins there recently. Tonight though, the tika taka way of Guardiola’s men would have to be thwarted if United were to progress.
A return to the side for Wayne Rooney was a big positive pre-match, after a toe injury had threatened his absence. Another notable change was the selection of Smalling over the experienced Ferdinand. Needless to say, the former would have to put in a performance to prove the doubters wrong.
The first half passed as United continued to soak up continued pressure, Robben frequently dropping a shoulder and cutting inside, only to be snuffed out. Rooney too had a chance to shoot but, like Welbeck last week, perhaps hesitated for a fraction too long, allowing his effort to be blocked. Similarly, Valencia had the ball in the net, but rightfully was adjudged to be off side from the incoming cross.
During the resilient defensive periods, Rooney and Welbeck were the only men not inside or surrounding the box as Vidic marshalled his men. It was clear that the Germans had the upper hand but whilst the score stayed level the team kept hope.
Kagawa was utilising his knowledge from Dortmund to great effect. Installing a real sense of fear in the Munich defence as he surged forward towards Dante and Boateng. The lack of chances in the attacking third did not fail to dampen defensive spirits.
Half-time provided a timely breather for the eleven United players. Reaching the end of the first period was phase one well done, but they remained wary of the threat posed to them. Arjen Robben ‘Chelsea Rebel’ was the constant slippery figure. His ablity to turn on a penny and cut inside was causing troubles but Evra had done enough to match him in the first 45.
The second half began steadily and with caution from United, as they looked to gain momentum in the tie. A half chance came again from Kagawa, who managed to get a snap shot away from distance, only to have it easily saved by Neuer.
The opening goal came after neat work down the right, with a wayward cross evading the defence, only for the incoming Evra to fire a missile into the top corner. An unstoppable effort from the Frenchman to snatch the crucial away goal.
Cruelly however never has the phrase ‘you are most vulnerable when you have just scored’ has never been more accurate as Bayern scored right after the restart. Ribery’s cross found Mandzukic, who stole half a yard on Evra, and equalised for Munich.
With a new found confidence, Bayern looked more dangerous than ever and allowed them to snatch a second soon after with Robben’s drilled cross turned in by Muller.
Munich regained their freedom, starving United of possession. Moyes through the kitchen sink at the Germans, with Hernandez coming on for Fletcher, but it proved fruitless. Eventually, the tie was finished off when the excellent Robben grabbed a deserved goal- cutting inside and bamboozling both Vidic and Evra before placing his shot into the corner.
Januzaj for Welbeck with ten minutes remaining saw Moyes ‘try’ to achieve the impossible. Valencia too continued his wonderful performance, tirelessly bombing down the wing. In the end, it was all in vain however with United condemned to European exile for the next 18 months at least.
Yes, Rooney was a gamble that didn’t pay off, but the players gave everything last night. Although at times the attacking impetus was lacking, their commitment was impressive. They now face Everton at Goodison Park next Sunday in a crunch tie for both Moyes and their season. Can 6th or 5th be salvaged? Can Moyes take his Old Trafford tenure into next season? United must regroup, regain spirits, and aspire to get their league form back on track.