Another roller coaster 90 minutes watching United. It can’t be good for our health. Here’s what we learned after last night’s events.
The Front Four
Three out of the four were very, very good tonight, the other one wasnt. Valencia caused big problems for Alaba, running at him with pace and purpose, he was a real handful. With no one to profit from his end product, he was rather wasted, though one did find its way through to Evra for his wonder strike. Welbeck again was a thorn in Bayern’s side. If he had shorter legs I am sure he’d be a World beater, sadly he doesn’t but he does have his pace, which will always cause problems. Kagawa has all of a sudden sprung to life in a United shirt. Some very classy touches followed by some lovely interchanges with his attacking colleagues make for very pleasant viewing and whet the appetite. Wayne Rooney. So often this season he has been our talisman in the big games, the one we look to get that goal or put 100% in. Tonight Mr Dependable was not at the races. A golden opportunity in the first half passed up by dithering and waiting too long. He looked lacklustre and unwilling to put in the extra effort. Another golden chance in the second half was spurned at 1-1, and then at 3-1 (though that holding mildly less importance it must be said) compiled his misery, especially when matched with his inability to pick a pass. Though he did link with Kagawa and Valencia a few times, tonight was not his night.
Another solid performance undone by sloppy mistakes. We hardly gave Bayern a sniff and dealt with the threat of some of the most formidable attackers around admirably. Jones obviously had issues with Ribéry’s pace, but wasn’t completely lost out there and did get the better of him on a few occasions. Smalling won the vast majority of his areal battles and even took a few knocks for the team. Vidic was the same, sweeping up where necessary and making tackles and blocks in the danger areas. Evra even looked half decent defending. Until it all went wrong. Allowing Mandzukic to get in front of him, Robben to pull the ball back and then completely giving up on tackling were all key to Bayern scoring. Vidic was slow in reacting to Muller for his goal, even de Gea could probably have done more with his effort. Once again it was a case of our mistakes being punished, which is expected against a side of Bayern’s quality.
Setting up defensively against a Guardiola side is almost paramount. And that is what Moyes did. He set up to use the pace of Welbeck, Rooney, Valencia and Kagawa on the break to try and punish Bayern for any over committing, and it seemed to work, we contained them well for 45 and even managed a few of our own chances. That being said, we are Manchester United, and we shouldn’t be looking to play teams on the break, home or away. Not that that is a criticism, his team selection was pretty much bang on (though maybe Buttner ahead of Evra would have reaped the same rewards as it did at Old Trafford). His substitutions were those of intent, which is a stark improvement from the early stages of the season where he was tentative with his changes. He also showed us he can get hit smack bang in his manhood and hardly flinch. Could this be the straw that breaks the camels back however. Failure to qualify for any European tournament could well be, and this was looking like our only way of staying in the Champions League. As it happens, a first season without top European football in 19 appears to be beckoning.
Not the best ever hey? A show of how far ahead other teams have got, and how far we’ve slipped. Bayern are a very good outfit, and who is to say things would have been different 12 months ago, but on the whole it was a culmination of our season. The first leg offered hope, and then we took the lead (what a hit by Evra), but it was to be yet another false dawn. Signs aren’t so pessimistic, Kagawa is beginning to show us what he has in his locker, Fletcher didn’t look out of place in the middle, Smalling played well and when Rafael comes back into right back, may even be able to build a partnership with Jones. After having been so up for that 20 second period, to be at this point now feels horrible. Lets hope something can be salvaged in the last 5 games, because being rubbish ain’t for me.
By Matthew Henderson
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