The last five seconds in the Allianz were the worst in our season so far. Not only did we concede a last minute goal, which turned a great away score draw in to a less favourable 2-1 defeat, but our most important player, Wayne Rooney, landed awkwardly on his ankle and had to be helped off the pitch. Was that our season over? At the time, maybe it felt like that.
We haven’t had a lot to cheer us up since then either, with an incompetent linesman gifting Chelsea the three points and us slipping to second in the league with five games to play.
Tonight our lads have the opportunity to give us something to smile about again and I am confident they will do it.
In the first leg, Bayern Munich had 60% possession, 10 shots on target to our 4, 7 blocked shots to our 2 and 85% passing success to our 74%. They were at home, they were playing well, we were playing badly, but they left with just a one goal advantage as well as conceding an away goal. So, even when Bayern are playing well and at home, and we’re playing badly, they struggle to assert their dominance over us. So if we can put on a half decent performance, concentrate defensively for every second until the final whistle then we should be alright. Right?
Nani has provided the assist for the past two goals we’ve scored and has to be in the starting line-up, with Antonio Valencia down the other wing. The central midfield area is a bit hazy though. Darren Fletcher has to start but he looked exhausted at the weekend. Michael Carrick’s poor performances resulted in him not even getting a minute against Chelsea, whilst Paul Scholes’ passing was erratic. So who does Ferguson go with? I’d pick Carrick and Fletcher, with the former at least being well rested and in need of proving himself. Park Ji-Sung will probably be fancied over Ryan Giggs thanks to the goals he’s scored in big games over the past few weeks.
Up front, it will Dimitar Berbatov up front, and in desperate need of proving a point. He’s scored 3 goals in the past 4 games but he really is due a big goal. Aside from a couple headed efforts, he didn’t get a sniff against Chelsea, but then, nobody did really. Federico Macheda will be an option on the bench and should be brought on with plenty of time if things aren’t going our way.
However, the manager has been very coy where Wayne Rooney is concerned, with him struggling to rule him out entirely for tonight. Having Rooney as an option on the bench would add to Bayern’s nerves, with them proving to be fairly obsessed with him over the past few weeks, and obviously would be the best kind of substitution any team could hope for. Is it worth the risk of aggravating his injury? We’ll have to trust the manager to make that shout.
Defensively, it will be our usual five, with the manager confident that Gary Neville can keep up with Franck Ribery.Patrice Evra will be wanting to make amends for his costly dithering in the first leg and will have the challenge to keep Arjen Robben quiet. The Dutchman didn’t even have a place on the bench at the weekend, when Bayern Munich beat Schalke 2-1, so we should hope and expect he won’t be at his best.
Bayern Munich went down to ten men with almost an hour still to play at the weekend, so hopefully that will have a knock on effect for them tonight, after travelling over from Germany yesterday, as Schalke are currently the second best side in the Bundesliga, therefore no push overs.
That, combined with a new and determined attitude from our players, as well as the roar from the crowd, should be enough to see us through tonight. Inter Milan and Barcelona have already booked their place to meet in the semi-final, whilst Lyon travel to Bordeaux with a 3-1 advantage.
If you’re going to Old Trafford tonight, take your flags, scarves and loudest singing voices, and let’s hope we can be talking about a trip to France before the day is out.