BAYERN MUNICH VS MANCHESTER UNITED
There was a sense of belief being shown by the players and manager prior to the game. The 1-1 draw at Old Trafford and the subsequent ‘hammering’ of Newcastle gave United reason for thinking they could pull off a shock away at Bayern. Would United set up in the same manner or would they be more adventurous knowing they had to score to have a chance of going through?
In: De Gea, Vidic, Carrick, Welbeck and Rooney.
Out: Lindegaard, Mata, Fellaini, Young and Hernandez,
- Bayern played very narrow, a 3-2-2-3 of sorts and as a result in the first half they created few overlapping opportunities on United’s fullbacks.
- The out-ball from United’s defence/midfield lacked quality yet they remained compact and blocked the channels; until the goal.
- Evra’s goal was great and was what United deserved but the cliche of being weakest after you’ve scored was never more true; Mandzukic equalised. United went to pot and lost what was good about their performance up to the first goal. The game became stretched as United lost shape.
- It was right to make a substitution, but Hernandez coming on was not necessarily the right change; it had many effects, Rooney out of the game and Bayern had more space; it saw United drift out of the game.
- Compared to last week at least one United pass combination made it onto the charts; De Gea to Welbeck with 9 passes.
- Welbeck was kept quieter in this game and Lahm should be applauded in helping to do this.
Those thinking Ferdinand would be included were shown otherwise when Moyes set Smalling alongside Vidic with Jones to the right. Did Moyes feel Smalling couldn’t do a worse job on the right than his performance against Olympiakos away?
Fletcher’s inclusion over Fellaini put Reds at ease and it allowed more certainty to close the gaps for the channel passes but also Fletcher has more prowess when he finds himself forward which he often does, spreading the ball out wide, 5-10 yards outside the opposition’s ‘D’.
Bayern had Mandzukic in from the start, extending their improved performance after he came on in the first leg. He tried to occupy space between Jones and Smalling but the defence kept compact and also tried to nod the high ball down to teammates.
Bayern played Ribery and Robben out wide (chalk on the boots stuff) and then fullbacks, Alaba and Lahm came inside and forward; Alaba so much so he put Evra to shame! Yet he occupied the space that Ribery did last week and was quick to get back when needed. Lahm on the other hand came very central and Kroos, on occasion, dropped to the middle of the centre backs forming a 3 man defence as Boateng and Dante went outside of him.
United’s defending was excellent (18 out of 26 successful tackles), see 34 minutes in when there was 11 players behind the ball but it was United’s ‘out-ball’ which let them down, giving the forward line little chance to control and play in the Bayern final third. However, it was pleasing to see Rooney, Welbeck and/or Kagawa/Valencia often as an attacking trident when the ball was up high. Parking the bus with a difference!
Bayern rarely overlapped as they kept their formation narrow! The way United limited Bayern to only one on ones with Ribery and Robben was impressive; by keeping it narrow Bayern didn’t help themselves.
United went in at half time happy particularly knowing that the Bayern defence could have been breached (they’ve conceded more at home than away), the disallowed Valencia goal was unfortunate but also poor decision making from the Ecuadorian who was in position to look along the line. In addition the defending was excellent in a 4-1-4-1.
No changes as the game went the same way for a period but Mandzukic could be seen dropping off the defence further. The shock came when BOOM! Evra gave United the lead (shocked for the second time) with an absolute thunder ball of a strike.
This however had a destabilising effect on United’s shape, giddy at the thought of going through, they dropped off, the space in front of the defence, Evra in particular became too sloppy, losing positional discipline and Bayern punished this.
Ribery had been kept quiet for this and the last game but it was his cross to Mandzukic that was too much for Evra to deal with which gave Bayern the equaliser. Most Reds would no doubt have been disappointed by this because of the way we had kept Bayern, not under control, but within their sights. Bayern are good but they are no Barcelona of 2011 fame.
It went from bad to worse though as ten minutes later Evra was caught out as Robben enjoyed his new found freedom with Kagawa not back in time to cohabit. Regardless, Evra was not close enough and his stance allowed Robben the angle to pick out Muller (quiet all game) who reacted quicker than Vidic to give them the lead.
Moyes had to act as a second goal would have been all United needed. Yet, the wave of pressure and loss of composure from United suggested that whatever Moyes did, it wouldn’t work. Nonetheless, he brought Hernandez on for Fletcher, causing Welbeck to drop left, Kagawa partnering the Mexican and Rooney dropping in beside Carrick. This 4-4-2 didn’t work as the chasing the game mentality was stronger than the counter one which had been so effective up to Evra scoring. Rooney could be seen out of position, unsure whether to stick or twist. Perhaps Moyes had hoped he could gain greater control (somewhat) with Rooney deeper as it had began to wane with Fletcher tiring.
Guardiola must have seen this space as he swapped Rafinha for Gotze; an opportunity to support Robben and give more service to Mandzukic.
The game was over when Robben made it 3-1 after he’d been given plenty of space to attack and put a shot in which slightly deflected off Vidic.
United had worked incredibly hard to put themselves in a strong position following Evra’s fantastic goal. He played well right up to that point and the defence as a whole were then put under siege as Bayern turned the pressure up with help from United’s loss of compactness.
Moyes made reference to the turn in the performance once Bayern equalised, “If you’re a schoolboy, you’re told not to concede a goal straight away after scoring. I’m pleased with the performance, but a couple of small errors cost us in the end.”
Thinking ahead in Europe, this patient and robust style of play will no doubt be seen more of as Moyes progresses in the job. Yet changes have to be made: the full backs need to be part of a foundation where play can build up from the back; give De Gea options. On the other hand, is it a direct tactic from Moyes that play needs to get forward from de Gea? Looking at the stats it seems so. As such, United need to have players quicker around the second ball both infield and to the relevant wing.
Regardless, Moyes should be commended for overseeing two decent performances but this game proved (as do most) that a ball carrier (or two) is essential for United to retain control once regained and quickly break. In both games Bayern had by far the lions share of possession and ultimately this told in both games as tired legs saw United fade.