Wayne Rooney identifies Bayern Munich weaknesses that offer Manchester United hope of Champions League upset
United must overcome conceding an away goal to the reigning champions but Rooney saw enough in the 1-1 first-leg draw to realise Bayern are vulnerable
Wayne Rooney looks more like the next captain of Manchester United with each passing week. It has been he, not the customary Nemanja Vidic or Patrice Evra, who has stopped to account for many of the unjustifiable performances of the last eight months and it was he who detailed the Bayern Munich fault line which gives the club a chance to achieve what he admits would be his biggest result in Europe, if United can progress to a Champions League semi final, six days from now.
"They play a high line and with a little more composure we can exploit that," Rooney said as he reflected yesterday on Tuesday's 1-1 draw. "You can see there are chances against them." There is another weakness to exploit, idealistic though it would be to suggest that United can go to the Allianz Arena in expectation of the win, or 2-2 draw, that they will need. The weakness to the aerial ball, explored elsewhere on these pages, is one that Germans themselves seem aware of, judging by Jerome Boateng's disclosure that United corner kicks were something the European champions had tried to prepare for. "We know they're good at corners and we didn't defend well in that situation [when they scored from one]," Boateng said. "They have good, quick players."
Rooney will travel with a sense of indignation about Pep Guardiola's gesture which implied he had simulated a dive to get Bastian Schweinsteiger sent off at Old Trafford. There were clearly words between the two in the moments before the German left the field. "I don’t really want to say what he said, but I think it’s a foul," Rooney said. "It could have gone either way. He could have hurt me, he's gone in with his studs and the referee has booked him so it’s not my decision. It’s not nice to see anyone sent off and I didn’t try to get him sent off. The referee has made a decision. I’ve tried to stop myself getting hurt and the referee has had a decision to make."
The Germans feel differently. Matthias Sammer, Bayern's sporting director was indignant - justifiably indignant - about Antoniuo Valencia stayng on the field after his challenge on Boateng, which looked worthy of a second yellow card. "If you apply the same standards then I don't know how Valencia stays on. If the referee has a policy, then he must go through with it," Sammer said. "There's no question that what Schweinsteiger did was a foul, but with Valencia, there were also several fouls, including his outstretched leg against Jerome Boateng. At this level, you have to apply the same standards."
For Rooney, this line of discourse was immaterial, given that Danny Welbeck's failed clipped shot at the advancing Manual Neuer, when through on him early on Tuesday could have made the final scoreline more decisive for United. Given the video analysis on Neuer that the strikers have been put through, you imagine that Welbeck had some apologising to do at half time. "We have watched videos of their goalkeeper and he’s a bit like [Peter] Schmeichel [in] that he likes to come out of his goal, so it’s a bit disappointing that he tried to dink him and didn’t score," Rooney said. "But he will learn from that. I am sure if he gets a chance over there he won't do that.
The absence of Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez, also suspended, will help United, though Rooney's understandable desire to discuss the defensive qualities of his own side felt a little more like Manchester United talk, in a season when there has been little of it. Alexander Buttner, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic did much to rehabilitate United's tattered reputation on Tuesday night. "Defensively we were organised, defended really well," Rooney said. "We have got some great players, and we had to." If United could answer the question of why they have not played like they did on Tuesday more often they would not be relying on a Champions League title to get back into the competition next season. "We always try," Rooney said in response to that vexed question. "But this season we haven’t had the best of games. Maybe it was down to a lack of confidence in some of the games and I think [we found some] on the back of the Aston Villa game [on Saturday. We knew it was going to be tough and we had to dig in, defend well as a team and we have done that. It’s a start for us."
The Allianz Arena carries mixed memories for Rooney. It was the stadium where he put United ahead in the quarter final first leg four years ago and yet the one where he sustained the ankle injury which set in train the dismal summer which ended in ignominy World. A win would represent his biggest performance in Europe, then? "Yes, I think so," he said. "They are favourites for the tournament and it will be a tough ask, but we needed to give ourselves a chance to still be in the tie and we have done that."
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