Post Mortem: Manchester United's defeat at Bayern
After yesterday’s match between Bayern Munich and Manchester United, all I can say is well done Bayern. They deserved it. I was really impressed with what I saw. Bayern were good on the night, no doubt about that.They gave United a taste of their own medicine with the last minute winner. But I have a feeling that they looked better than they actually were, elevated by the horrendous performance on the night by the visiting team. Let’s have a sort of …..Post mortem.
I never like Manchester United scoring early, especially in big games. They just take the foot of the pedal. That’s what happened yesterday. They scored a lucky goal in the 2nd minute and then on it all went down stream. I have observed one thing. If you watch the first 10 minutes of a United game, you pretty much know how the rest of the game is going to turn out, the exception being last year’s Champions League final. Even yesterday, inspite of going ahead early on, United’s first 10 minutes lacked authority. Against Milan, they went down early and you could see the change. The team wanted to come back. What did they do yesterday….they just sat back and let Bayern do all the talking. The only positive thing of the result is that United know now that they have to win the match at Old Trafford. I always feel that if United go into a match knowing that they have to win, they perform like the team we expect them to be. In the end, I feel it was the early goal that lead to the scoreline in the end.
More than often in Europe, the team that wins the battle in the middle wins the game. If a 2 man midfield dominates and outplays a 3 man midfield, you know something is wrong right. Especially when you have Fletcher, Scholes and Carrick on one side and Van Bommel and Pranjic on the other. Logically, the extra man in midfield should make all the difference. But Bayern won the midfield battle yesterday. The United midfield dropped deep leaving acres and acres of space in the middle of the park. I have always believed that Manchester United have the weakest midfield among the top teams in Europe. Yesterday was a proof. Fletcher and Park, first names on the team sheet for all the important games in Europe, were very poor yesterday. United failed to take advantage of the extra man in midfield. They just couldn’t control the game. I don’t think United managed to string together even 10 passes all night, that’s how sloppy the passing was. There was too much space between the midfield and attack. Service to Rooney was greatly affected by this. United need to enter the transfer market this season. They need to strengthen the midfield. Otherwise games like this will be seen more than often.
Where was the counter attacking football that the Red Devils are so famous for, yesterday??? It was absent. They seemed to be in a more attacking mode. Yesterday United went back 4-5 years. They tried to play English football on a European night. Possession is of utmost importance because once you lose the ball in Europe, it’s not easy to retain possession. At the end of the match the possession stats read 60% to Bayern and the remaining to United. Neither did they keep the ball with them nor did they retain possession once they had lost it.
During the pre-match show when the 1999 final was being discussed, Carlton Palmer made a statement saying that the reason Bayern lost that day was due to substitutions that were made at the end by the then Bayern coach. History repeated itself yesterday. A tactical blunder from the gaffer Sir Alex cost United the game. With hardly 20 minutes remaining, he removed Park and Carrick and brought Valencia and Giggs in. Inspite of the fact that his 3 man field was being outplayed by Bayern, he changed it into a 4-4-2. A big big mistake. He should have gone instead for the same formation with different personnel. All night long Bayern were just knocking on the door. This tactical change opened the doors for them. Sir Alex generally gets his tactics right but yesterday he got it all wrong.
United repeated the same mistakes that they had made in the first half at the San Siro. Milan failed to take advantage of the chances that they created that night, but Bayern capitalized on them. Had it not been for some great keeping from Van de Sar, the tie would have been dead and buried. It was an open game, but United failed to capitalize on their chances. Rooney had 2 glorious and easy chances by his standard to score a hattrick before Bayern could set in. He failed to put the ball into the Bayern net, but certainly put the ball into his own net. It was shambolic defending on the free kick. A wall is supposed to block a shot. United made a blunder of it yesterday. They did all the ‘NO’s that shouldn’t be done by a wall. They turned, they split and they took their eyes of the ball and the ball ended in the back of the net. Rooney looked ordinary yesterday. His ankle injury means that United now have a chance to prove that they are not a one man team.
United are not out of the tie. They just need a 1-0 victory to go through. Bayern can’t play better than this but United were very very poor yesterday. The Bayern defense can crack easily; there was enough proof of that yesterday. If United play like they did against Milan then the tie will go only one way. However, it is going to be a much stronger Bayern team that they are going to face at Old Trafford. Robben and Schweinsteiger will be back and Rooney is most probably out. What will happen a week from now, no one knows? United have a lot of work to do. They know it. A magical European night at Old Trafford beckons.