Despite having only lost one game in this season’s competition, everyone was doubting down the chances of David Moyes’s team but during the 90 minutes, the 14 men who donned the famous Red jersey showed their stomach for the fight. One player who epitomised that never-say-die attitude on a special night at Old Trafford was Nemanja Vidic. If you were looking for a statistical representation of the perceived gulf in class, then the match-up between Bayern’s midfield and attacking personnel and the home side’s defence was the perfect place to start. Comparing the comparative line-ups, the visitors looked to have the advantage with wing wizards Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery up against makeshift full-back Phil Jones and second-choice Alexander Buttner on the other flank. Robben has proved to be a thorn in the side of United before, as he scored the decisive goal in the last meeting between the teams in April 2010 and held an unblemished record during his spell at Chelsea (3 wins and 1 draw). Frenchman Ribery also left his mark on the Red Devils in Manchester by netting the equaliser in the first leg of the tie in 2009/10 and his ability to create goal-scoring opportunities (21 this season) was a worry. Although Jones and Buttner were often outwitted, Vidic and long-time defensive partner Rio Ferdinand proved to be a comforting presence with their solidity and experienced heads. With his departure to Inter Milan at the end of the season confirmed, it was written in the stars that the Serbian would leave an indelible mark on the United faithful, after his eight-year spell. A teasing set-piece delivery from Wayne Rooney in the 58th minute provided the platform for the moment as the centre-half arched his neck back and diverted a header beyond the despairing Manuel Neuer. This was his first goal in Europe since he notched against Inter in March 2009 and raised the raucous home crowd to a different level. Although his delight will have been tempered by Bastian Schweinsteiger’s crucial away goal and the midfielder’s unchallenged run into the box, it will raise belief that the Red Devils can achieve a task, which was previously being labelled as impossible. The last four English clubs have avoided defeat at the space-age Allianz Arena, with Arsenal picking up a 1-1 draw in March, so there may just be light at the end of the tunnel in a disastrous season.
Much of the build-up has centred on the vastly contrasting fortunes of this pair of sporting giants and how this encounter would expose the gap in quality. Various quotes and soundbites have also focused on Bayern Munich’s quest to break a host of records and truly etch their name in football folklore. Incredibly they have already usurped seven Bundesliga marks, including the number of titles won (25), the earliest date to clinch the League crown and most consecutive wins in a single season. There are still a number of records in their crosshairs though and a record of only losing a single competitive game in the last twelve months – to Manchester United’s bitter rivals City – suggests they are more than capable of doing so. Markers that they have their sights set on breaking include an attempt to become the first side to win the treble in two successive seasons and becoming the first team to retain the Champions League. With a potential 12 fixtures remaining after tonight, a sixth European cup victory could still be claimed and a 17th German Cup triumph looks likely, with second division Kaiserslauten awaiting them in the semi-final. The pressure will only escalate as each fixture goes by and it certainly won’t be easy to secure European success, but history suggests that this club and group of players are made of stern stuff.
When the United board were presented with the task of replacing Sir Alex Ferguson, they must have wondered where to start. They were happy to have the decision taken out of their hands by the most successful manager in the club’s history, and he settled on a fellow countryman in Moyes. Doubts have reigned supreme since Moyes’s appointment was announced about his suitability to take on a job of this stature – especially considering that the former Everton boss had a distinct lack of major honours on his CV. In fact, the only trophies that the man, dubbed the Chosen One, has ever claimed were the 1999-00 Division Two with Preston North End and this season’s Community Shield against Wigan. Although it is obvious that Ferguson’s replacement is not meeting the lofty expectations, the statistics put the fall from grace into context. Despite currently having the second-best win percentage (55.32 per cent) amongst the previous managers to have graced the position, United are on course to register their lowest League finish since the 1990-91 campaign, when they finished sixth. Given the glut of silverware in recent years, with Ferguson winning nearly 40 prizes in his 27-year tenure, it is strange to think that they could end up without a cup gracing their seemingly ever-expanding mantelpiece, for the first time since 2004-05. Envious eyes must therefore be looking towards the opposition dugout and the managerial maestro, Pep Guardiola. If the Red Devils were considering bringing in a foreign boss for the first time in their 136-year history in the summer, then Guardiola must have been very high up in the list of targets. Prior to the game, the Spaniard refused to confirm whether he was offered the post, but his ability to win trophies at will and impart a tactical nous is sure to be a source of jealousy at Old Trafford, as the Red Devils potentially prepare for a spell out of the winners enclosure.
MORE: Man United latest news
MORE: Arsenal latest news
MORE: Chelsea latest news
MORE: Liverpool latest news