Vidic strike gives Reds renewed confidence
Manchester United 1 Bayern Munich 1
Published 02/04/2014 | 02:30
They came fearing a rout, a Champions League quarter-final humbling to cast Manchester United into European oblivion, but as Bayern Munich's players trudged off the pitch shaking their heads, Old Trafford was filled with renewed belief.
Bastian Schweinsteiger's 66th-minute goal, which cancelled out Nemanja Vidic's headed opener eight minutes earlier, ensured that the European champions denied United the victory which would have lifted the roof of the old stadium.
But, in a season of trauma at Old Trafford, David Moyes's players summoned the spirit of United teams of old to test the jaw of the supposed undisputed champions of the world.
The team currently languishing seventh in the Premier League drew blood from Pep Guardiola's peerless outfit and, with Schweinsteiger suspended for the second leg following two yellow cards – joining Javi Martinez in serving a one-match ban next week – perhaps mission impossible has become a fraction more achievable.
United will need Vidic and Rio Ferdinand to roll back the years as they did here and also hope Danny Welbeck can find his shooting boots but they will travel to Bavaria with hopes alive in a game that was supposed to be a dead rubber.
With United going in as 6/1 outsiders on their home turf, there was clearly little expectancy outside of Old Trafford that Moyes's team could land a blow on Bayern, let alone beat them.
In a modern game dominated by statistics, each one added weight to the bookmakers' belief that this Champions League quarter-final was a no-contest.
Guardiola's team had scored in each of their last 60 games – netting two or more goals in 24 of their last 25 games – and they arrived at Old Trafford having won 17 successive away games outside of Munich.
Nobody of a United persuasion needed any reminder of the more negative numbers posted by their team this season, so from the outset, it appeared as though Moyes was planning for a rearguard action.
His starting XI, with Marouane Fellaini preferred ahead of the more creative Shinji Kagawa, emphasised the requirement for Roundheads over Cavaliers.
Moyes's decision to load his midfield with Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs and Fellaini was also influenced by a need to protect a back four compromised by the ageing legs of Rio Ferdinand and Vidic and the inexperience of Alex Büttner, in for the suspended Patrice Evra at left-back.
Against such a fearsome opponent, one so adept at retaining possession, United simply had to start well and avoid being overrun.
And the early signs were bright, with Danny Welbeck unfortunate to have a goal ruled out after just three minutes. The England forward unnerved Bayern with his pace and he appeared to outwit Javi Martinez by clipping the ball over the Spaniard's head before shooting past Manuel Neuer.
Referee Carlos Velasco Carballo blew his whistle before the ball hit the back of the net, however, with Welbeck judged to have raised his boot towards Martinez's head.
If United sensed complacency within Bayern ranks following Welbeck's chance, they were sorely mistaken.
The Germans simply shrugged off the scare and claimed ownership of the ball for the next half-hour, cranking their possession stats up to 81pc at one point as United dropped deeper and deeper into their own half.
United were not inviting Bayern forward, they simply could not escape. It was as though they had been tossed overboard with a lead weight applied to their boots, so deep were Moyes's players.
Bayern could not break through, though. Arjen Robben forced a save from De Gea from 25 yards before Buttner escaped a penalty shout when he handled Rafinha's cross.
But the chance of the half fell to Welbeck six minutes before the interval, only for the forward to horribly miscue his chance.
With Jerome Boateng slipping while attempting to clear Rooney's through-ball, Welbeck found himself clear on goal, with only Neuer to beat.
Welbeck suddenly believed himself to be Lionel Messi as he attempted a chip over the goalkeeper, but he lacked the Argentine's clinical accuracy, instead mis-kicking the ball into Neuer's arms.
Welbeck's miss was another example of Bayern's defensive frailties, though, and with Giggs suffering a groin injury, Moyes raised the stakes by introducing Kagawa at the start of the second half.
The Japanese midfielder's ability on the ball and inclination to move it forward gave United the link between midfield and attack that had been missing and they began to stretch the Germans.
After Rooney had seen a header saved by Neuer, United were rewarded with the opener on 58 minutes when Vidic buried a Rooney corner into net.
Bayern's marking was non-existent as the centre-half timed his run to perfection before heading the ball past Neuer.
Old Trafford erupted, with the Serbian finally giving Moyes's team something to cling onto.
United's grip was loosened within 10 minutes, however, with Bayern claiming the equaliser, and potentially decisive away goal, through Schweinsteiger.
The midfielder was perfectly placed to direct Mario Mandzukic's head-down from Rafinha's cross past De Gea with a crisp half-volley from 10 yards.
It was a goal which tipped the tie firmly back in Bayern's favour, but they were made to fight for it, and that in itself is a victory for United.
Moyes's team must now summon up the same spirit, fight and desire in the Allianz Arena next Wednesday to claim a result that will match any in the club's glorious European history. (© Daily Telegraph, London)