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Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Bayern in 'Not Rubbish' Shocker

Analysis of the extent of the injury to Wayne Rooney (predicted on this blog on March 15) may have been the central theme to many of the articles sifting through the aftermath of Man United’s defeat in Munich last night, but this throws only a thin veil over a thoroughly tepid performance. Not just that, but believe it or not, Bayern Munich were actually quite good.

In the build up to this quarter final, you could be forgiven for thinking United were facing easy opposition with a win almost a foregone conclusion. The blind, unthinking media view seemed to converge around the prediction of a fairly comfortable 2-1 United win, a prophecy only reinforced by the news that Arjen Robben wouldn’t be making the starting XI.

Although the current Bayern side is not as famed as the vintage version featuring the world class duo of Lothar Matthaus and Stefan Effenberg, a quick glance at the team sheet from those days at the turn of the century also reveals the very workmanlike talents of Carsten Jancker, Jens Jeremies, Michael Tarnat and Alexander Zickler.

Fast-forward 11 years and, Frank Ribery and Robben aside, Bayern have a similar set up. The likes of Mark Van Bommel, Holger Badstuber and Danijel Pranjic provide a decidedly unglamorous supporting cast. These lesser lights did not lay down and die, however, and alongside the famed German efficiency, a ruthlessness is always lurking somewhere near the surface. That Bayern came into the tie on the back of a couple of 2-1 defeats domestically perhaps hinted the Germans were focusing their collective gaze on the Champions League – a competition they have not won since 2001. And, lest we forget, Louis Van Gaal has previous with the competition, albeit back in 1995 when his brilliant Ajax side were worthy winners.

As limp as United may have been last night, Bayern were good value. In the second half they came into their own, with Carrick and Fletcher being marshalled ably by Van Bommel and Hamit Altintop, Ribery flying past Neville with ease and Bayern attacking with purpose. United looked tired by the end, especially the usually dependable Patrice Evra, caught in possession by Ivica Olic who put away his chance coolly in injury time.

With four stars above their crest, Bayern have won the European Cup once more than United. And although English commentators would have you believe otherwise –Jamie Redknapp still thinks United will go through, surprise, surprise – they possess a side more than capable of going to Old Trafford and nicking a goal, nullifying the detrimental effect of Rooney’s second minute volley. This is the quarter finals of the Champions League; there are no easy games. Bayern’s rich tradition in the competition, their passionate support, the watching Franz Beckenbauer, Uli Hoeness and the rest of the Munich Mafia demand nothing less than a full-blooded, disciplined display at Old Trafford. United’s path to the final is now precarious; fail to win and they are out. Thoughts of another ‘easy’ tie against Lyon or Bordeaux can be put to bed for the moment and United fans must pray that Rooney’s ankle is as bulletproof as his form of late if they are to progress. Adam Bushby

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