Olic gives United's sleepy defence a rude awakening
Bayern Munich 2 Manchester United
Wednesday 31 March 2010
This time the players lying devastated on the ground were Manchester United's, and it was Bayern's who were celebrating. But one prone figure in white was not just reeling from shock at a comeback which evoked echoes of United's against the same opposition in the 1999 Champions League final. Wayne Rooney was also suffering the physical pain of an ankle injury with unknown ramifications.
Rooney's night had started perfectly, the striker heading his 34th goal of the season after 66 seconds. It ended with him carried from the field after incurring an injury in the build up to Ivica Olic's winning goal for Bayern. In between he inadvertently diverted Franck Ribéry's free-kick past the previously unbeatable Edwin van der Sar to launch Bayern's comeback with 13 minutes left.
It was United's first away Champions League defeat in 18 matches and ended a run of six successive victories in the competition. It was also the first time they had lost having opened the scoring away from home in the Champions League since letting slip a 1-0 lead in similar fashion to Deportivo La Coruña in 2001.
The consolation for United is that the score did not reflect Bayern's dominance. Rooney's away goal may yet be significant but it seems unlikely he will be available next week, while Arjen Robben may be fit for Bayern.
One problem Sir Alex Ferguson will not face next Wednesday is complacency. He had warned against it before the game but United's early goal may have reinforced, in some players' minds, that this was to be a straightforward victory. With Robben absent, Mario Gomez nursing a calf injury on the bench, alongside the dropped Miroslav Klose, and Bastien Schweinsteiger suspended, United looked set to emulate Norwich City, the only previous English club to beat Bayern in Munich, in 1993. Instead, the only similarity to that triumph proved to be the colour of the scarves round the necks of the anti-Glazer United fans.
"I think we scored too early," admitted Ferguson at half-time. "We didn't need to work for the goal." Indeed not. From the kick-off United broke down the right and Nani was fouled. He took the free-kick himself, it skimmed off Mark van Bommel and looped towards the far post. There to tap it in was Rooney. Behind him, scrabbling on the floor having been wrong-footed by the striker's movement, was Martin Demichelis. It was a grim start for the Argentina defender, who was wearing a mask to protect the cheekbone recently fractured by Michael Ballack in the friendly against Germany.
Nani had been chosen ahead of Luis Antonio Valencia, one of this season's successes. This, Ferguson explained, was because of the uncertainty over the fitness of Robben and Ribéry. "It was a hard one to leave Valencia out," said the United manager. "We didn't know if Robben and Ribéry were going to be in and needed Park [Ji-sung]. Then it was a straight choice between Valencia and Nani, and Nani can play both sides comfortably."
However, while the goal may have made by Nani, the selection can be questioned as Park played on the left, not the right. This curtailed the attacking advances of Philipp Lahm, but left Ribéry more or less free to give Gary Neville the most difficult game he has experienced since returning to the team. Ribéry has not played particularly well this season, but last night, against a club which has tried to buy him in the past, he was superb.
Had it not been for Edwin van der Sar United could have been well beaten. The 39-year-old Dutchman had one of his busiest nights in a United shirt making a string of saves. Poor finishing was a factor too, notably when Ribéry's sublime 25th-minute pass dropped behind the United back four but Hamit Altintop failed to control the dropping ball. Van der Sar then punched away a Ribéry shot. Altintop thumped the ball back in and Olic ought to have turned it in at the far post. Van der Sar also saved from Ribéry and Danijel Pranjic as Bayern pressed. Yet United also had chances on the break and Rooney could have extended their lead shortly before the break. Park released Darren Fletcher whose cross fell to Rooney 10 yards out; but his shot struck Hans-Jörg Butt's foot.
At half-time Ferguson demanded his team keep the ball better but it was Bayern who re-emerged as if they had been subjected to the "hairdryer". More likely Louis Van Gaal had simply pointed out the quality of chances they were making and told them United were beatable.
Ribéry soon set up Olic, whose shot was turned away by Van der Sar. Altintop had a shot deflected over, then Van der Sar had to stretch to deny Thomas Muller. The Dutchman beat away another shot by Altintop, who had dribbled into the box, then saved from Van Bommel who had driven forward.
With 21 minutes to go Ferguson acted. Michael Carrick and Park were withdrawn, and Dimitar Berbatov, fresh from two goals at Bolton, and Valencia brought on as United went to 4-4-1-1. The changes had no impact, Bayern going close again with Van der Sar denying Olic. The pressure had to tell. Neville handballed on the edge of the area. As Ribéry took the free-kick, the United wall jumped. The ball struck Rooney's leg and deflected past the stranded Van der Sar.
Louis van Gaal, who had already brought on Gomez, went for the kill, throwing on Klose to make a four-man attack. Scholes and Rooney were booked as United tried to hold on. Ironically they nearly snatched a late winner, Nemanja Vidic heading a corner against the bar. Instead the joy was Bayern's, Olic robbing Evra, drifting past Rio Ferdinand, then beating van der Sar. United, now down to 10 without Rooney, barely had time to kick off.
Bayern Munich (4-3-2-1): Butt; Lahm, Van Buyten, Demichelis, Badstuber; Altintop (Klose, 86), Van Bommel, Pranjic (Tymoschuk, 89); Muller (Gomez, 73), Ribéry; Olic. Substitutes not used: Rensing (gk), Gorlitz, Contento, Alaba.
Manchester United (4-1-4-1): Van der Sar; Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Carrick (Valencia, 69); Nani (Giggs, 82), Fletcher, Scholes, Park (Berbatov, 69); Rooney. Substitutes not used: Kuszczak (gk), Rafael Da Silva, Jonathan Evans, Gibson.
Referee: F De Bleeckere (Belgium).
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