Having spent the first leg defending in the trenches that were dug around their 16-yard box while trying to hit Bayern on the counter, United travel to Germany knowing that, at some stage during the game, they’ll have to shed the ponderous and dithering cloth they’ve worn all season and attack.
Resolutely. Like they’ve seldom done in this most beleaguered of campaigns.
Perhaps it’s simply a desperate attempt at self-conviction, but the fact that United must score if they’re to progress, could even give them a better chance tonight than they would have had, had they traveled to Munich on the back of a result that would have allowed them to sit back and defend for 90 minutes.
Last week’s performance, while spirited and encouraging from a mental point of view, given the impeccable regularity with whom United had bottled crunch games this season, offered further proof that despite all the bullish talk coming from Moyes and his players, we’re very much an underdog in Europe and the team is set out as such.
United, particularly on the road, have been circumspect under Fergie, of course, but last week’s effort left few doubts as to what the future will hold against top sides.
That said, though, United managed to ensure they’re still in the tie ahead of tonight, which is more than anybody would have expected before the first leg, but it still might not be good enough to reach the semifinals for the first time since 2011.
If United were to adopt the same attitude this evening, things could turn very ugly indeed, for Bayern aren’t likely to be content with a 0-0 draw. They’re a champion side and a side of champions and such teams do not settle for a share of the spoils, certainly not in front of their own fans and certainly not against a side so markedly inferior.
United have never beaten Bayern over two legs and have been knocked out in both of the quarter finals played against the Germans, losing one and drawing three of their four games in Munich and even considering that Bayern’s unbeaten record came to an end on Saturday after 53 games – Pep Guardiola’s men haven’t won in three games – and they will be without Javi Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger, they remain a formidable opposition.
With Moyes at the helm one feels United do not possess possess a manager capable to change a game’s destiny by tactical adjustments or sheer force of will, though if there’s one situation Moyes excels at, as he’s shown with his defeatism-permeated interviews, is being the underdog.
He doesn’t seem to enjoy or particularly care about United’s profile and he’s spent all season desperately trying to portray us as the side that had “to make things difficult for their opponent”, rather than vice versa.
Well, David, you’ve got your wish and did a decent job of it in the first leg. Unfortunately, though, while that ensured that United have little to lose tonight, it might still not be enough to get us over the line at the Allianz Arena.
A goal – probably more than one, preferably two or three – is needed from somewhere. Wayne Rooney should be passed fit, as should Ryan Giggs, who could equal Raul’s record of 142 appearances in the Champions League in what could – and more realistically will – be his last match in the competition.
Marouane Fellaini is so inadequate to these sort of occasions – or indeed any occasion – that starting him would be like handing Bayern a man advantage, while Shinji Kagawa has to be given a chance, if only based on his positive performances over the last couple of weeks.
Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra could all be bidding farewell to the Champions League in a United shirt and while it’s heartwarming to think they’ve got one last great performance in them, Phil Jones might be a better option at centre-back, given Guardiola’s outspoken plans of targeting United’s lack of pace at the back.
Under Fergie you’d have backed United to get a result in Munich but then again, under Fergie, United wouldn’t have entered a Champions League quarter final as the sacrificial lamb we appear to be these days.
Realistically, it probably won’t happen and the best we can hope for is a dignified exit, after a valiant effort – which would already represent a huge improvement on this season’s standards. And yet, perhaps out of the stupid romanticism that permeates us, it’s hard to disagree that if there’s a side capable to cause a shock and upset the odds, that’s United.
So come on Reds, let’s give ourselves something to cheer about in this godforsaken season.
Probable Starting XI: