Manchester United provided a spirited performance to earn a hard fought draw against the reigning European Champions Bayern Munich. United showed real resolve in defence and lead through a Nemanja Vidic goal only for Bastian Schweinsteiger to level matters with what could be a crucial away goal. Bayern ended the game with 10 men after Schweinsteiger was dismissed for a second bookable offence. United will gain great belief from the performance and go into the second leg with everything still to play for.
David Moyes reshuffled his pack from Saturday’s win over Villa, recalling Ferdinand, Carrick, Welbeck, Giggs and Valencia with Rafael, Fletcher, Kagawa, Young and Mata (cup tied) making away. The evergreen Ryan Giggs lined up in central midfield after he rolled back the years in the last 16 win over Olympiakos. Pep Guardiola also recalled some of his big names, having had the luxury of resting them at the weekend following their capture of the Bundesliga with seven games to spare. Mario Mandzukic had to be content with a place on the bench with Guardiola opting for Thomas Muller in the false number 9 role ahead of an exceptionally strong midfield containing messiurs Kroos, Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Robben and Ribery.
It was another special atmosphere on a European night at Old Trafford, helped by the travelling contingent of Bayern fans who were boisterous throughout. In the opening exchanges Welbeck and Valencia pressed Bayern high in the wide areas. United were denied the dream start when Danny Welbeck found the back of the net only to have his goal chalked off for a high boot. Bayern then grew into the game and started to control it in typical fashion. The newly crowned German champions bossed possession and were afforded a lot of space in the wide areas. However for all their quick movement and passing they failed to create a clear cut opening. It took 30 mins for either keeper to be tested with David DeGea at full stretch to deny Robben’s curling effort from 25 yards out. United’s disciplined approach in defence forcing Bayern to shoot from long distance on a couple of occasions in the first half. United rarely threatened in the first half until Wayne Rooney slid a wonderful ball behind the Bayern defence to Danny Welbeck who wriggled away from Dante to bear down on goal one on one with Manuel Neur. Welbeck attempted an audacious chip over the keeper which Neur easily saved. It was a huge opportunity missed and one that Welbeck should have taken. The sides remained goalless at half time.
The injured Ryan Giggs (groin strain) was replaced at half time by Shinji Kagawa, who had beaten Bayern in 4 out of 4 attempts as a Borussia Dortmund player. Kagawa made an instant impact as United grew into the game and offered more in the attacking third. In the 57th minute Wayne Rooney whipped in a sumptuous corner which found an unmarked Nemanja Vidic, the skipper doing fantastically well to lean back and send his header in Neur’s bottom corner. As the stadium burst into raptures, Pep Guardiola summoned Mario Mandzukic from the bench. Thomas Muller was replaced and United braced themselves for a Bayern siege in the last half an hour. In the 66th minute, after good work from Robben down the United right, Manduzkic headed down Rafihna’s cross into the path of an unmarked Schweinsteiger who made no mistake with a thunderous strike into the roof of the net. The United lead had lasted 8 minutes and Bayern, crucially, had an away goal.
Alexander Buttner, who had put in arguably his best performance in a United shirt, limped off with a hamstring injury and was replaced by Ashley Young with Phil Jones moving to left back and Valencia covering in right back. The Bayern substitute Mario Gotze laid on a terrific chance for Robben soon after but the Dutch winger dragged his effort wide of DeGea’s goal. In spite of his missed opportunity, Danny Welbeck was terrific on the night for United. He pressed Bayern high up the pitch and fought for everything before being replaced by Hernandez on 85 minutes. The little pea was instantly involved when he turned Javi Martinez who brought him down with a cynical challenge. The auxiliary centre half was booked and will now miss the second leg. Schweinsteiger will also miss the return tie in Munich after receiving a second yellow card for a late challenge on Wayne Rooney. That was to be the last of the action and it finished all square.
In a game where Bayern were overwhelming favourites United showed real character and determination to produce the kind of performance that has been lacking against the big sides this season. For all of Bayern’s possession they often looked devoid of ideas in the attacking third and resorted to long range efforts on goal, reportedly a cardinal sin in the eyes of Guardiola. While Bayern must still be favourites to progress having scored the away goal, United must now believe they can go to Munich and do what many had written off as impossible.