Manchester United – A bunch of bouncing schoolboys

by Omar Soliman

A lot can happen in 22 seconds. You can dare to dream only to have it snatched away and that is just what happened to United in the Allianz Arena. Cruel though it was, the whole tie teetered on those fleeting seconds as Patrice Evra’s stunning goal and the players didn’t really know what to do after that. Not that this should be too surprising.

Up until then, Moyes’ masterplan was working with Bayern hitting pot shots and failing to get through due to United’s compact shape. That the tactics proved similar to those deployed at Old Trafford should not be surprising either, going toe to toe expansively with a team as talented as theirs is tantamount to kamikaze. Hipster statisticians will point out that United only had 36% possession over the course of the tie yet but you can’t quantify football fully with just numbers.

Few could say that United deserved the eventual scoreline as they actually created the better chances over both legs on the counter-attack. Danny Welbeck being the main culprit at home with Wayne Rooney failing with two guilt-edge chances away. In the knockout stages of the Champions League, you simply cannot expect to prevail if you do not take your chances. Ultimately, that played a major part in failing to progress to the semi-finals in what may be the last Champions League campaign for some time. However, problems at the back continued to be the main cause of downfall.

Call it a lack of discipline or simply a lack of foresight but there was a naiveté at play that has scuppered United all season. Back when they allowed Andy Gray in a commentary box, he called it switching off at the back. David Moyes elaborated on that point. He said:”If you’re a schoolboy you get told ‘make sure once you score, don’t concede right away. We conceded too quickly. It was always going to be a tough night and, after we got the first goal, we needed to give ourselves five or ten minutes where we could stop them getting the ball.”

Everyone would have giddily thought ‘If we can just keep them quiet for a few minutes’ until trailing off when the cross came in. It was fairly obvious that the tie was in the balance so quite why Franck Ribery was given so much room on the overlap is anyone’s guess. The defending had been dutiful to that point yet when they needed to keep Bayern at bay for just a few minutes that discipline deserted them.

In a season that has been punctuated by ‘what if’ and ‘if only’ moments, the game in Munich was another in a long list. What if they could have seen it out at home to Southampton and Fulham then away at Cardiff? If only Antonio Valencia hadn’t switched off at the back post against Everton?

Moments like these define a season and just like Munich, it was another match that might have been.

Image: Twitter/manutdff

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