The Libero - Bayern exorcise ghosts to leave United in the mire
Published: 31 Mar 2010 - 06:34:40
Perhaps it was fitting that Bayern Munich, of all clubs, should overturn a one-goal deficit with two late goals, one coming in the depths of time added on, to beat Manchester United.
Bayern fans say that it has been too long since the 1999 final for the dramatic events of balmy night in Barcelona to hurt any more, that victory at the quarter-final stage over United in 2001 had already served to banish any demons that may have remained.
But Tuesday's victory at the Allianz Arena, and more importantly the manner of it, cannot have failed to raise a smile to the lips of even the most rehabilitated Bayern supporter.
Yet while there are definite parallels to be drawn between the two games, 11 years apart, there are also stark differences. Most obviously, back then United did not deserve to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. This time around, Bayern fully deserved to.
United had led pretty much since kick-off in Bavaria - well 64 seconds into the game to be more precise, but considering Bayern's first touch of the ball came when they restarted the game at a goal down, that seems a reasonable way to describe the situation - but the hosts recovered well and went on to entirely dominate the second period.
United played poorly - Alex Ferguson admitted as much - and had Franck Ribery not equalised in the 77th minute, it would have gone down as one of one of the most undeserved smash-and-grabs ever.
And not many could begrudge Ivica Olic his sensational injury-time winner, given the Croat's usual 110-per-cent input over the course of the 90 minutes. That and the fact he had missed an absolute sitter in the first half.
Also, whereas the dramatic turnaround in Catalonia resulted in United lifting their holy grail, this latest result did not actually mean much. Not on the night, at least. Except perhaps that United's proud away record has now evaporated.
Certainly United will have to play better at Old Trafford if they are not to suffer the same fate they did nine years ago. But it will be difficult, especially considering United will most likely be without their best player while Bayern will have their own back.
Far more important for United than the actual result was the injury to Wayne Rooney in the dying moments of the game and the blow to his ankle delivered by the boot of Mario Gomez, depending on the impending diagnosis, may prove a decisive moment in United's season.
Meanwhile, Bayern will probably welcome back their - and the entire Bundesliga's - best player Arjen Robben for the trip to the North-West. The Dutchman has been a revelation this season and if unleashed in tandem with Ribery, who impressed in Munich, United should have real cause for concern. Doubly so if Gary Neville is selected again.
With the small matter of Chelsea's visit to Manchester on Saturday followed by the return leg against Bayern next Wednesday, these eight days had been billed as a season maker or breaker for United.
While nothing is settled just yet, one game into the three and with one defeat registered and one star player crocked, it could easily end up being the latter.
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- FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:the libero
- Libero (noun): 1. Versatile, ball-playing defender given licence to roam. Expected to break up opposition attacks while instigating counters. Role patented by German legend Franz Beckenbauer. 2. Versatile weekly football columnist, aka journalist Mike Hytner, given licence to write what he likes. Expected to file every Wednesday. Not nearly as talented as his boyhood hero Der Kaiser.
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