Preview: United v Bayern Munich

Arjen Robben

It is, in many respects, a game that David Moyes cannot lose. Drawn against the ever-improving European champions, some bookmakers have Moyes’ Manchester United at 6-1 to beat the Germans at Old Trafford on Tuesday night. There can be only a handful of occasions in the past 20 years when such long odds could be found on United securing a result at home.

Yet, this is a reflection of the campaign to date. Moyes’ side has lost 13 times in all competitions this season; that’s as many games as Bayern coach Pep Guardiola has lost in four years. Seven of those defeats – six in the Premier League – have come at Old Trafford; more than the previous three campaigns combined.

Meanwhile, Bayern have failed to win on just seven occasions all season, being held to five draws and two losses. Or to put it another way, while United has retrenched under Moyes’ stewardship this season, Bayern has flourished under Guardiola’s management, with the Spanish coach securing an 84 per cent win rate this season.

Four years on from the last meeting between these sides – and Arjen Robben’s outstanding volleyed goal – Bayern is a superior outfit and United a shadow of the former team.

So much for all the talk of finding a path to match Barcelona after those dual Champions League final defeats to Guardiola’s Catalans in 2009 and 2011. Barça has been usurped as the continent’s best, of course, but United has not reached the same level again. On the current path, it may be years before the Reds feature in another continental final.

Still, Moyes has talked a bullish game this week; victory over Aston Villa filling the Scot full of more confidence than might be understandable after a dismal campaign. In Moyes’ predicament he’ll take the highs when they’re on offer.

Then there’s United’s form in Europe this season, which has seen the Reds lose just the once in the Champions League to date – the embarrassing 2-0 defeat to Olympiakos in Athens.

“It’s been a very good competition for us so far in my short time here, and now we’ve got the ultimate test in Bayern Munich,” said Moyes on Monday.

“I think the pressure is equally balanced because we want to win the game as much as they do. We go into the game knowing, on our day, we are as good a side as any. We have to show it more often but I have got great belief in the players. I get the feeling all the players want to play. In training, their attitude suggests they all want to play in the big games and this is a big game.”

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Manchester United v Bayern Munich, Champions League, Old Trafford, 7.45pm, 1 April 2014Still, Moyes is without key players for the 13th meeting between these two European giants. Robin van Persie could miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, Juan Mata is cup tied in Europe, and Patrice Evra is suspended for the first leg in Manchester.

Rafael da Silva faces a late fitness test after coming off at half-time against Villa on Saturday. Ominously the Brazilian missed training on Monday.

However, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans both took part in a light session, although neither is likely to be match fit. The Irishman hasn’t played since early February, while Smalling has been in, but mostly out of the side in recent weeks.

With the rash of defensive absences Dutchman Alexander Büttner could start at left-back, while Jones will move to the right if Rafael proves unfit. It could mean a recall for Rio Ferdinand, or another appearance for Michael Carrick in the back four.

Further forward Moyes has a big call to make replacing Mata, with Kagawa pressing for a starting role after impressing against the Brummies, while Adnan Januzaj has been under-used in recent matches.

***

However, with Champions League qualification unlikely next season, Moyes’ priority remains Europe where a respectable result over two legs could secure the Scot’s job come the season’s dénouement. Matching Bayern man-for-man in a 4-2-3-1 system seems atypical to Moyes’ thinking, pushing fit-again Antonio Valencia, alongside Danny Welbeck and Ryan Giggs, into the frame for Tuesday’s match.

“It’s an obvious thing to say but it’s a two-legged tie and we have to make sure both games are important,” said Moyes.

“We’re mindful we want to go to Germany with every opportunity to go through so there’s always a bit of caution in the first leg. But we’d love to go to Germany with a win under our belts because it would set us up nicely.”

***

Meanwhile, the European champions arrive in Manchester without key midfielder Thiago Alcántara, who suffered a partial ligament tear in his right knee Bayern’s during 3-3 draw with Hoffenheim at the weekend. The Spaniard has become central to Guardiola’s plans this season following at £21 million move from Barcelona in the summer.

However, such are the riches on offer at Bayern that Guardiola may still field Bastian Schweinsteider, Toni Kroos, and Phillipe Lahm in central midfield at Old Trafford. Defender Dante is suspended so Spaniard Javier Martinez is likely to drop into the back four.

Such is Bayern’s strength that World Cup-bound German internationals Thomas Müller and Mario Götze may not make the Guardiola’s starting team.

Whatever the selection Bayern remain strong favourites to progress over two-legs, with Moyes likely to come under real pressure only if the newly re-crowned German champions run up a cricket score. That is, of course, possible given Bayern’s form this season, although Guardiola is keen to play down his side’s chances of running amok in Manchester.

“We are up against Manchester United and they are one of the most important clubs in the world, regardless of their current situation,” said Guardiola, who has been on the losing side just twice as Bayern coach.

“I know deep in my heart which team we are going to face. Maybe they have not had a good season in the Premier League, but in the Champions League they beat Leverkusen, they have won many important games. But when I see Rooney, when I see Ferdinand, when I see Vidić, when I see Ryan Giggs, when I see Chicharito, Welbeck, I know them all too well.”

***

The same can be said for Bayern’s likely starting team of course; each an outstanding and recognisable part of Europe’s finest side. Indeed, United’s chances may well be limited without injury and suspension disrupting Moyes’ back-four.

“Everyone knows it’s hard, that’s why I am saying we have to play with real quality,” said Rafael. “We have to do 200% or 300% to win.”

 

Manchester United v Bayern Munich, Champions League, Old Trafford, 7.45pm, 1 April 2014

Possible Teams
United (4-5-1): De Gea; Jones, Ferdinand, Vidić, Buttner; Valencia, Fellaini, Carrick, Giggs, Welbeck; Rooney

Bayern (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Rafinha, Martinez, Boateng, Alaba; Lahm, Schweinsteiger; Ribéry, Kroos, Robben; Mandžukić

Substitutes
United: Lindegaard, Rafael, Smalling, Evans, Young, Fletcher, Januzaj, Kagawa, Nani, Hernandez

Bayern: Starke, Van Buyten, Badstuber, Shaqiri, Götze, Weiser, Højbjerg, Pizarro, Müller

Head to Head
United 2 Draw 4 Bayern 3

Match Officials (ESP)
Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo
Assistant referees: Roberto Alonso, Juan Yuste
Additional assistant referees: Carlos Gómez, Carlos Del Cerro
Fourth official: Pau Cebrian Devis

Prediction
0-3

Matchday Forum
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Comments

  1. spot on as usual Ed. Pretty sure we played Villa on Sat tho rather than West Ham. I assume I’m now blocked for my insolence?!

  2. Denton Davey says:

    Park nine buses – and play Chicharito alone, hoping for a lucky bounce. If TheLads are set up “to play” against Bayern it will be a slaughter. The gulf in class/quality between UTD’s best outfield-ten and Bayern’s is vast.

    Rio/Vidic/MC16/Fellaini are ALL too slow and ponderous.

    Jones/ButtNutts are too reckless.

    AshleyBloodyYoung/AV25/DannyTheLad/YoungTom aren’t good enough but they are “athletic” – although the ball moves faster than any man, even faster that Usain Bolt !.

    If TheMoyessiah tries to get some “skill” into the side by going with KagawaBunga or AdnanJ then those guys will be starved of service but won’t provide any protection against the waves of Bayern passes. Giggs, however, is still reasonably good on-the-ball and has a strong defensive understanding which cannot be said for either of the other two.

    SAF set up TheLads in a “turtle” against Barcelona in 2008 and, over two legs, a lucky strike from TheGingerNinja won it. Maybe TheWayneBoy can catch lightening-in-a-bottle and beat Guardiola again.

  3. Denton Davey says:

    One more thing – don’t let Arjen Robben use his left foot !

  4. Raphael C says:

    United have not beat anyone all season above Stoke in the current Premier League top 9 — and lost away to Stoke.

    Except Arsenal, who are maybe a bit miffed they haven’t got in on the act.

    That’s something like 7 points out of a possible 39. Relegation form if the league only had nine teams.

    I’m very much hoping a miracle somehow happens, but based on those results, we simply have no prayer.

  5. MS Assefa says:

    It is obvious we will lose tomorrow but I hope we lose badly and get humiliated in front of the world audience. I also hope Moyes stays for a few more years and completly ruins the club so that all the idiots who were singing his name on saturday can feel the pain they caused people who care for the club.
    I hope every fool singing Moyes name remembers March 29 2014, the day when caring fans forked their hard earned money to save the club but their work was undone by your idiocy. You are just as RESPONSIBLE for the ruin of Man Utd as much as the Glazers, SAF and SBC.

  6. Odds of 6-1 ?More likely the score line …

  7. joe jordans missing teeth says:

    I think Welbeck and valencia are a must on the wings, for outlets and for defensive help since are fullback situation is dire. plus we know they at least give ashit

  8. joe jordans missing teeth says:

    As for all the negativity, it is a game and anything can happen, Burnley beat us in a year we went to the Champs leg. final. Wigan beat city twice in the last year. I for one am really looking forward to this game, last chance for a lot of players to show some pride. I think some of our injuries might be a blessing in disguise, Evra’s defensive liabilities,
    Rafael giving away too many free kicks, RVP, While class sometimes slows us down, Mata being cup tied brings Kagawa into the fold. again anything can happen — United fans hoping we get destroyed make me shudder.

  9. Subterranean Steve says:

    6-1 are the longest odds ever for United to win a home game.Certainly since 1945

    Lambs to the slaughter.

  10. Denton Davey says:

    Subterranean Steve @ 6:45: “Lambs to the slaughter.”

    Too much pessimism.

    If you ignored all the pre-match hype (and in-match commentary), then it was pretty clear that this match-up was likely to play into the “strategies” of Agent Moyes and the remaining “strengths” of Rio/Vidic/MC16, who played with the ball in front of them and weren’t required to turn like oil-tankers.

    TheLads parked-nine-buses and had one guy to be the outlet – sometimes it was DannyTheLad, sometimes it was TheWayneBoy. None of that touchline-hugging-wingers-bullshit – just nine guys behind the ball while Lahm passed to Kroos who then passed it back to Lahm and so on and on and on.

    The only real danger posed by Bayern was Arjen Robben’s left foot and – to a much, much lesser extent – the possibility that Franck Ribery would do a StevieStarFish swan dive in the box. Otherwise, UTD’s game-plan worked very well – ROPE-A-DOPE.

    The re-match next week is now nicely poised – Bayern have the away goal but their confidence in possession-play is likely to have been dented and both Schweini and Martinez will miss the match. Fortunately for them, that means that Gotze and Dante get to play – rather than having to drag in substitutes of the quality of AshleyBloodyYoung

    • Mongoletsi says:

      What do you think for the return leg? Same again but hopefully drop Failaini for Fletcher?

      Kagawabunga staked a claim for a start I reckon.

      • joe jordans missing teeth says:

        I think I would stick with Buttner, Robben could torch evra if he doesn’t get back quick enough. Fletcher in for Fellaini, partnered with Carrick, Welbeck and valencia out wide and Kagawa behind Rooney. Welbeck and Valencia were key with helping out our fullbacks. Rest Rio and Vida this weekend then play the same back 4. If rafael is healthy maybe put Jones in midfield-no thiago Martinez or Schweinsteiger for them so hopefully Moyes already knows what type of midfield we will be up against.

  11. Denton Davey says:

    For the return, I think that you’re on the right track.

    I’d go with:

    Rafael/Vidic/Ferdinand/Evra across the back line

    Jones/MC16/DarrenFletcherinho in midfield

    KagawaBunga/TheWayneBoy/DannyTheLad up-front

    Even with those changes, I’d play the same game-plan – force Robben/Ribery wide – and DO NOT let Robben use his left foot, even if that means over-compensating and allowing him freedom with his right foot. The problem with this strategy is that Evra tends to go walkabout but if he can play a disciplined holding role then that should be OK.

    Otherwise, “park nine buses” and look to hit them on the counter. The loss of Schweini/Martinez means that Bayern will be playing without a “proper” defensive midfielder.

    What was so striking about Bayern’s possession was the meaninglessness of it – Lahm to Kroos, Kroos to Lahm, and so on. For all the similarity to Barcelona’s tikka-takka, Bayern’s attack lack quick thrust – there were danger moments only when Robben got the ball on his left foot and cut inside (three times, I think – one forced DaveySavey to push his shot around the post while on the other two occasions his shots went wide) and, of course, the sequence which led to their goal when Rio ball-watched and jumped lackadaisically and TheBigFella was lost up his own arse and didn’t cancel Schweini’s run onto Mandzukic’s knockdown. Barcelona, in contrast, are always probing – looking for a quick one-two/wall pass which gives Messi a sight of goal.

    My other comment about the media response to last night’s match was that there was some hysteria about Welbeck’s miss – as if RVP didn’t miss three great chances against RM last year ! DannyTheLad provided a great outlet and his early strike was unfortunately ruled-against when it was clear that Martinez moved his head towards the ball rather than Welbeck’s foot being dangerously high – rather similar to the situation which the ref got right when Valencia did NOT get a second yellow for the 50/50 challenge.

    Bayern’s possession-game actually played into UTD’s strengths and did not exploit the very real weakness of Rio/Vidic/MC16/Fellaini which is, of course, their incredible immobility. It will be interesting to see if Bayern get sucked into this situation again – or if Pep tries to lure UTD out-field in the hope of exploiting that immobility and Evra’s wandering. The 1-1 first-leg result creates all kinds of jeopardy – for both clubs. Bring it on !

    • joe jordans missing teeth says:

      Worried about Evra v Robben, buttner seemed up for it have we heard anything about his injury?

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