Bayern Munich 3 Manchester United 1 comment: David Moyes has earned the right to lead United back to the Champions League

There was a level of team discipline that has been absent this season

allianz arena

There was no disguising the impact on David Moyes. For the most fleeting and precious moment in this most wretched season, he finally discovered what it had been like for Sir Alex Ferguson all those years, feeling the thrill of improbable victory and daring to rewrite the preordained script.

It had gone within 22 seconds of football; viciously wrested from him like hope so often has these past eight months when the directions he shouted into the ears of his jubilant players as they celebrated – something along the lines of ‘hold tight, ‘focus’ and ‘keep a grip’ - came to nothing and Bayern Munich scored. And then scored again. And again.

 But from deep within the wretchedness, the new Manchester United manager can take something away from Bavaria. This was the tie in which his team was supposed to tank, be overwhelmed, and his own weakness be laid bare, yet instead they revealed that they belonged on the stage which they will now exit for the first time in 18 years. His team – the weaker of these two sides, containing remnants of old and new, sorely in need of repair - had played their part and he could say he had engineered that.

 

Moyes still looked like a manager in search of the players whom he could trust and who might bear the imprint of the new Manchester United. When it had seemed like a night for the old twin pillars of the defence to make their last stand, he turned to Chris Smalling to partner Nemanja Vidic. And when it has seemed like he might defend to the hilt he was prepared to play Shinji Kagawa, the player whose exact value has seemed to perplex him above all others.

Read more: Moyes labels defending for equaliser as 'criminal'
Comment: Display earned Moyes right to lead team back to top
Bayern 3 Man United 1 - as it happened
When is the semi-final draw?

He seems to struggle to get them to listen to him, too. Ryan Giggs tells a story of the lengths players always went to, to pretend that they could not hear what Sir Alex Ferguson was bellowing at them, which often entailed keeping a distance, but 20 minutes in last night Phil Jones was two yards away and still no flicker of response when Moyes gestured.

But the picture was deceptive. The individual contributions of Smalling, Phil Jones and Patrice Evra scrambled that image which has surfaced periodically in the last eight months – and generally in the deepest pit of crisis – of a squad which is in a state of dislocation from the manager. They shielded David de Gea from the need to make a solitary save in a first half in which United posed the greater attacking threat, just as they had been in Manchester last week.

Mario Mandzukic scores 22 seconds after United (GETTY) Mario Mandzukic scores 22 seconds after United (GETTY)

And there was more to the defensive component than the defenders. It was like an alarm bell issuing through the United ranks when Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben seized the ball, bringing Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck steaming back to double up on them with discipline as substantial as anything we have seen from this Moyes team this season.

When United seized the ball and sought to break out there was also a commodity so absent from United’s game at times that even as he bristled from a Friday lunchtime press inquisition a month or ago Moyes had to admit he was struggling how to find it. Pace. More pace than we have seen from United in the past eight months. Kagawa helped locate it, rapidly ferrying the ball to Welbeck whose pace Bayern Munich just do not find comfortable.

And when the rapid pass was not the option, there was something more prosaic. The early lofted ball eased over the defence for Wayne Rooney was not out of the modernist school but from the boot of Darren Fletcher it provided the first half’s prime opportunity. It added up to a lot more than the United Guardiola had tried to characterise before the game of a team prone to defend with a flat back nine. The talk in Germany is of how Guardiola can be undone by “guerrilla tactics” of teams who wait back and strike like burglars in the night. It was nothing like that.

Thomas Muller celebrates putting Bayern 2-1 up (EPA) Thomas Muller celebrates putting Bayern 2-1 up (EPA)

Neither was it an unimaginable event when United led. This had been nothing like the war of attrition they had waged against Guardiola’s Bayern at Wembley in the 2011 final and the tragedy for Moyes was that the goal erased a lot of that steel. The “crime” – as Moyes put it - of their lapsed concentration in the last half hour wiped out so much of the credit that the first hour delivered to the players reputations and to his. But the team’s failure to deliver in the final third told the real story of Manchester United and the way they have deteriorated to a level in which they cannot compete with the best.

 It was a measure of the unhealthy dependency on Rooney that Moyes sent him in to play against the Germans with a chipped bone in his toe, in the first place. The manager then made the remarkable revelation after the game – in which Rooney played the full 90 minutes -  that the player had been struggling to kick a ball with the affected left foot. United paid a heavy price for that. Rooney spurned the chance Fletcher made, seeming unable to transfer the ball from his left foot to right when the lofted ball put him through, and then scuffed the ball that Welbeck tapped into his path with the scores at 1-1. The mighty Manchester United, fielding a striker unable to kick a football. What kind of indictment is that?

The high mountains of Europe are history for United. It may be a long road back. The odds are against the return being as immediate and grand as the club would like us to believe. But Moyes has at least earned the right to be the man at the front, seeking a way out of the wilderness.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Sport
Steven Fletcher scores the second goal for Scotland
cricketBut they have to bounce back to beat Gibraltar in Euro 2016 qualifier
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Evans is the favourite to replace Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing