Sunday 18 February 2018

Bayern bounce back to put an end to United season

Bayern Munich 3 Manchester Utd 1 (Bayern win 4-2 on agg)

Arjen Robben of Bayern Muenchen celebrates during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final second leg match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Manchester United
Arjen Robben of Bayern Muenchen celebrates during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final second leg match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Manchester United
MUNICH, GERMANY - APRIL 09: Arjen Robben scores Bayern Munich's third goal past Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea
Bayern Munich's Thomas Mueller challenges Manchester United's Nemanja Vidic
Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben dribbles past Manchester United's Patrice Evra
Patrice Evra scores for Manchester United at the Allianz Arena
Manchester United's Danny Welbeck challenges Bayern Munich's Toni Kroos
Manchester United's Antonio Valencia scores past Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer only for it to be ruled out for offside
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney is challenged by Bayern Munich's Mario Goetze
Bayern Munich's Thomas Mueller scores past Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea
Bayern Munich's Mario Goetze is tackled by Manchester United defender Patrice Evra

Henry Winter

Manchester United's season ended midway through the second half in Munich, their defence and their remaining hope of silverware shredded by goals from Mario Mandzukic, Thomas Muller and the outstanding Arjen Robben.

David Moyes' first season as United manager effectively ended with a whimper, with his team outclassed, with his tactics questioned.

United fans sang of the 1999 final, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer putting the ball in the Germans' net, but their hosts were too busy singing "football's coming home." A few barbs were hitting home at Moyes, too.

Moving Wayne Rooney back into midfield at 3-1 down, isolating Javier Hernandez, with Adnan Januzaj deep, was bizarre for a side chasing the game. Starting with Shinji Kagawa wide was similarly perplexing.

For 56 minutes, United had believed. For 22 seconds after Patrice Evra's magnificent strike, United really did dare to dream, but there is such class in this Bayern side, such an ability to move up a gear that it was little surprise when they responded and then raced clear.

Until that crazy minute shortly before the hour mark, Evra and Mandzukic trading goals, the game had meandered along, full of Bayern passing, and occasional United counters, but to no effect, giving little indication of the drama to come.

Bayern had been introduced on to the field as "the best team in the world" and their fans formed a mural making out the words 'Kings Of The Cup', in English just to remind the visitors of what they up against.

Bayern were missing the suspended Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez, while Thiago Alcantara was injured, but Guardiola simply inserted Toni Kroos in the holding role, with Mario Gotze and Muller raiding through the middle.

Such was Bayern's constant contact with the ball that their full-backs, Philipp Lahm and David Alaba, pushed high up, partly alongside Kroos, but also down the flanks. This served to push Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben even further up, causing Phil Jones and Evra frequent problems.

Robben dominated the first half, constantly cutting inside and trying shots, all blocked. It was all in stark contrast to that astonishing 60 seconds after the break.

United had emerged to a few questions about Moyes' selection, notably the omission of Rio Ferdinand for Chris Smalling. Moyes preferred the youngster's "athleticism."

QUALITY

That quality was seen in the opening exchanges when Smalling nipped in ahead of Mandzukic to clear. Smalling, who was being watched by Roy Hodgson, then blocked a Muller shot.

Moyes had also surprised by shaping his team in 4-4-2 formation with Kagawa, who has impressed recently in the hole, starting on the left.

Danny Welbeck partnered Rooney, who looked a model of motivation, particularly when Bayern fans whistled his touches. They clearly held Rooney responsible for Schweinsteiger's suspension, although the Englishman claimed the German's boot was high when catching him at Old Trafford.

To the sound of derision, Rooney collected a Welbeck pass on the left and crossed, forcing Dante to head clear.

Rooney could have scored after 10 minutes, controlling a scooped pass from Welbeck, but surprisingly hesitating and the moment was lost. Kagawa then remembered his old playing pedigree on German soil, threading a pass to Rooney, whose cross from the left was turned in by Antonio Valencia.

The Ecuadoran had strayed offside and Jonas Eriksson, the Swedish official who had so annoyed Manchester City's Manuel Pellegrini, ruled the goal out.

Possession figures heading above 70pc reflected Bayern's superiority but they were still slightly flat. Robben was their main threat, cutting inside Evra and shooting, a shot wide, a shot over.

Robben's trademark move is so well known and so difficult to combat, but United coped well in the first half, Smalling and company throwing themselves into a series of blocks.

Kagawa was tracking back, also cutting out one Robben drive. Ribery joined the action, seizing on some poor control by Valencia, and shooting into the side-netting. Nemanja Vidic's rivalry with Mandzukic became ever more competitive, a Serbian-Croatian duel on ground and air, bringing a caution for the United captain after one challenge.

Bayern were hardly at their most imperious, missing Schweinsteiger's direct running, but they almost scored before half-time. Robben cut the ball back to Kroos, who lacked his composure that so damaged Arsenal, by firing over. The half concluded with a reminder of the main theme here, a Robben shot blocked by Smalling.

Beyond Robben's excursions, and some moments of class from Rooney, the only other episode of interest had been Welbeck splitting his boot, finding the trap door shut to the dressing-room tunnel, so preventing his getting a replacement. Instead, Welbeck's boot was taped up like a hard-up Sunday league player's.

The new half brought a new boot for Welbeck and a new mood to all the players in the game. The drama began unfolding after 57 minutes.

Valencia crossed from the right, the ball emerging to the unmarked Evra who had run in from the left. He met the ball on the half-volley and it flew past the stunned Manuel Neuer.

United fans up in the gods saluted Evra from on high; United fans also revealed themselves all around the ground, leaping up in celebration as their subs and coaching staff spilt out of the dug-out jubilantly.

They needed a Mourinho-style reminder of the importance of staying focused after scoring. The adrenalin clouded their judgment.

They switched off, particularly Evra, and within 22 seconds of the restart, Bayern were back level. Dante had been shouting at his team-mates to raise their game. They did, storming through, Mandzukic heading them level as Evra was caught out. Bayern moved up another gear, going ahead in the 68th minute from a smart move. Ribery played the ball right to Robben, who was not closed down quickly enough by Evra. Robben dinked the ball in for Muller, darting in ahead of Vidic, to score from close range with his right foot.

Bayern then sped further clear. Again Evra was caught out, Robben cutting inside, eluding the Frenchman and then Vidic before shooting low, via a deflection past David de Gea.

United will look back and reflect on what might have been had Rooney made cleaner contact with a Welbeck cutback at 1-1. Yet Bayern were too good. The inquest will not be kind on Moyes. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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