Ribery 77, Olic 90+2
MANCHESTER UNITED 1
It is not often a Manchester United side can be accused of giving the ball away, but following the loss in the Allianz Arena that is the exact criticism that Sir Alex Ferguson is laying on his team. Wayne Rooney was clearly an isolated figure for the most part of the evening and it was in the delivery to the United front man where much of this encounter was lost.
Drawing teams onto them and hitting on them on the counter attack has been a feature of some of United’s most impressive away performances this season but the inability to keep possession meant that this was a tactic that could not be exploited. A key ingredient to the United engine room is the ability of both Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick to hold onto the ball alleviating the pressure from the back four and hitting that decisive pass to put the front players in good attacking positions. Neither of this was achieved in this encounter. Carrick was extremely poor with his passing of such a low standard that the England man was removed in the change of formation when bringing on Dimitar Berbatov to try and alleviate some of the pressure that United were under. When in full flow Carrick is often able to thread pin point passes through crowds of players direct to the feet of Rooney, however this was not once achieved against Bayern with long balls into the channels often the preferred option. As Rooney was so isolated this more often than not meant that the ball came straight back in wave after wave of Bayern attack.
The lacklustre passing by United enabled Bayern a huge amount of pressure which was always going to prove telling. Franck Ribery enjoyed vast amounts of possession and the Frenchman’s second half performance showed why he is so highly rated in world football. Gary Neville was given a torrid time by Ribery and despite some recent assured performances the United club captain was exposed as a player entering his mid thirties and struggling for consistency of games. Neville’s constant bemusement when faced with Ribery lead to the bizarre handball which provided Bayern with a route back into the game. If United are to come out of this encounter triumphant then Ribery will have to be shut out of the game at Old Trafford as the Frenchman was an integral part of everything that was good about Bayern’s play from his glorious first half pass to set up Hamit Altintop to his involvement in the goal which brought Bayern back into the game.
United will be hoping that the injury suffered by Rooney in the closing encounters is not as bad as it first appeared and that he will be fit both for this weekend’s fixture and the second leg of this encounter as a loss at this stage of their talismanic front man could be catastrophic to the rest of United’s season. One thing is for certain however, if Rooney can be fit for the second leg United must make a vast improvement in their passing game to get the best out of him against a Bayern outfit who on current evidence will believe they have the beating of this United side.