As the referee brought the game to a halt, Manchester United manager David Moyes shook his head and made his way towards the tunnel with his head hung down in disappointment, or perhaps frustration of having given away a crucial away goal far too easily. However, the manager’s reaction barely corresponded with that of the fans who are celebrating this result as somewhat of a triumph given the disappointment that this season has turned out to be for them.
The gulf of difference between the two teams this season has been glaring; domestically, Bayern have collected 24 points more than United having played lesser games and their goal difference is almost five times that of the English champions. To emerge even after ninety minutes against an opposition who are possibly playing the best football in the continent especially when Manchester United are likely to end the season behind Tottenham and Everton, one cannot really censure the fans’ celebration of the result.
Despite Ryan Giggs scoffing at the idea of United being tagged as the ‘underdogs’ in the two-legged fixture, the odds had been heavily stacked against them against a Bayern team who are undefeated in the Bundesliga and are 23 points clear of their closest competitor Borussia Dortmund. As Nemanja Vidic rose to twist his body and angle his header comfortably beyond a hopelessly stranded Manuel Neuer, Moyes knew that the patience they have exhibited in dealing with Bayern’s attacks has finally paid them back.
One would still consider Bayern to go through given the crucial away goal they managed to score through Bastian Schweinsteiger minutes after going down, the truth remains Moyes has plenty of positives to take from this fixture. Having had a depleted squad ahead of the most difficult fixture of the season, the United boss fared well in choosing a starting eleven and setting them out to get the job done. A 1-1 draw at home isn’t a bad result after all; Bayern’s defense can be found wanting if questions are asked of them although Dante’s return could settle the nerves.
If I were Moyes, I would have slept at peace last night. Let alone the result, a few individual performances along with the cohesion among the players was something he would have taken heart from.
1. Phil Jones is developing into a fine defender and was once again one of the top performers for the side last night. Jones has been the go-to man everytime United have come up against a stiffer opponent; Ferguson assigned him the task of marking out Ronaldo when they met Real Madrid last year and it would be an understatement to say he fared well. However, the recent string of starts that he has been getting courtesy the recurring injuries to Ferdinand and Vidic alongwith Evans will keep him in good stead to claim a place in United’s defense next season.
2. Alex Buttner had to fill in for the suspended Patrice Evra, who has been a regular figure at the left back position for United this season and ones prior to this, and impressed by cutting off Robben’s threat multiple times before he had to be subbed off following an injury. The young Dutchman has pace to match many wingers stride to stride and has a decent tackle in him. His attacking instincts has been on display as well in whatever little first team opportunities he has been awarded with. Moyes would do good to give him some valuable match time given he has already made his mind up on finding a replacement for Evra; Buttner is too good a back up left back to have and needs to be played often.
3. Danny Welbeck might have received a pat on his back from the gaffer when was brought off but I would not daresay he had a similar reaction to his atrocious dink in the first half. Set through on goal by Rooney, the England international tried to outwit Neuer by cleverly chipping only to find the ball safely in his gloves. Having defended the entire first half with all gusto and determination, pinned back inside their own half, the best chance fell to United and Welbeck scuffed it.
However, the forward’s pace was a problem for the Bayern center halves and could be a problem to deal with in the second leg. There is no surprise why Welbeck poses a better threat when played out wide; he is quick and playing him out there is a tested and proven trick.
Danny needs to think before he dinks, henceforth. He has the pre-requisites of a good striker and can only eventually turn out to be a good one if he stops spurning away opportunities like them.
Jamie Carragher had mentioned prior to the match that a club as big as Manchester United are always going to put up a major performance, sometimes even surprising themselves, and that it was long overdue. He did not see it coming yesterday night though. He might see one coming in a week if Manchester United get their Dutch frontman fit and ready to start again.