Manchester United produced a sub-par performance in the Allianz Arena on a difficult night for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men. Wayne Rooney’s early goal looked to have earned United a share of the spoils, before Ivica Olic’s deserved late winner for Bayern Munich secured a first leg lead for the home side in Southern Germany.
Worse news came as Olic struck home the winner – United’s talisman Rooney hobbled off the pitch with a seriously twisted right ankle that almost certainly puts the striker out of the weekend’s Premier League tie with Chelsea.
Ferguson will at least be thankful his side is just a goal down, with the Louis van Gaal’s side giants creating at least a dozen opportunities in a vibrant atmosphere as United repeatedly gave the ball away.
“He has got a kick to the ankle, we will just have to wait and see tomorrow (Wednesday),” Ferguson told Sky Sports.
“Hopefully it’s not too serious. He may be doubtful for Saturday but we don’t know, it’s too early to say.”
Ferguson sprang only a minor selection surprise in leaving in-form Antonio Valencia on the bench in favour of Ji-Sung Park and Nani in wide areas, with the Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher triumvirate charged with retaining possession in the centre of the park.
The selection paid immediate dividends with Nani forcing a foul from Bayern’s returning defender Martin Gaston Demichelis inside a minute. As the Portuguese winger collected the ball on the right-wing, the Argentinian needlessly hacked down the former Sporting player. Rooney, unmarked inside the six yard area, gleefully stabbed home the free-kick.
Moments later and United’s neat movement on the edge of the area created an opportunity for Scholes only for the midfielder to blaze over. Then Nani skinned Daniel Van Buyten before dragging wide when he perhaps should have scored.
It was about as good as it got for United in a half Bayern came to dominate, with Ferguson’s side frequently gifting possession to the home side.
Indeed, with Franc Ribéry and Danijel Pranjic testing Edwin van der Sar in the United net, the great Dutchman required all his experience as United sat deep and invited the home side forward in the opening 45.
Bayern, inventive in attack and combative when not in possession, almost caught United cold as the second period began, with Ribéry living up to his pre-match billing and fashioning a chance for Olic with a wonder disguised pass.
Thomas Müller’s deflected shot and then Hamit Altintop both tested van der Sar’s resilience as United’s midfield conceded both the ball and territory.
Ferguson, sensing an opportunity despite Bayern’s dominance, threw on Dimitar Berbatov and switched United’s formation to a more traditional 4-4-2 but it did little to add spark to the visitor’s attacking play.
An equaliser seemed inevitable, and with 15 minutes to go the goal came following Gary Neville’s needless handball on the edge of United’s area. Ribéry, Munich’s brightest forward, scuffed the free-kick only for Rooney to deflect the shot into his own net. In truth, Bayern earned the slice of luck.
Now the Germans sensed victory and with just seconds left in injury time Patrice Evra dallied on the ball for too long allowing Olic to nip in and score a fully deserved winner for the home side to reverse the scoreline from the 1999 final.
This time it was Rooney not the Germans who crumpled to the floor in agony. Not with the pain of defeat but a badly twisted ankle that Ferguson will hope is not confirmed as ligament damage.
“We didn’t play well enough to be honest, we kept giving the ball away. We caused our own defeat,” added Ferguson.
“Bayern were the better team, we can’t complain about that, but we’re better than that in possession. We kept giving it away and that was our downfall.
“The first goal was a bit of luck with a deflection but the last goal, I don’t know how you describe it. The game was done and we gave a terrible goal away.
“Old Trafford will be a different game, obviously. We will be much better, no doubt about that, and hopefully we can recover.
“We have the away goal and we’ll go out to win the game.”
At 2-1 down United will have to and quite possibly without 34-goal striker Rooney. Bayern, with Arjen Robben and Bastian Schweinsteiger set to return for the Old Trafford leg, could well be a much tougher opposition than Ferguson had hoped for.