It´s never a great feeling to lose a final, not matter how much or how little is at stake, but I think we can leave Munich with our heads held high. The team which ripped AC Milan apart the evening before didn´t have a lot of joy against us, despite having the best part of the Allianz stadium cheering them on. 69,000 people showed up to watch the Audi Cup final, which maybe signals the importance that Bayern put on this competition. There 8,000 more fans than the semi-finals and as the host team, they clearly wanted the trophy. We can be happy enough that we took them to sudden death penalties for that to happen.
For the first ten minutes, United looked in control whilst Bayern looked very edgy and nervous. I couldn´t quite believe this was the same team that stroked the ball around the field so confidently the night before. They stayed in their half when they had possession and the keeper booted the ball out of play a couple of times under pressure from our forward line.
However, Bayern grew in confidence and took control of the first half. Despite both sides hitting the woodwork, ours a spectacular effort from Dimitar Berbatov, the home team certainly had the best play. Darron Gibson didn´t shower himself in glory and the successful strike partnership from Asia, in Berbatov and Owen, didn´t amount to much in Germany.
It was a heart in mouth when half way through the first half Martin Demichelis lunged at Owen. It is only since looking at the pictures I can see the extent of just how nasty it was. Studs up, nowhere near the ball, and would have warranted a red card in a proper match. After Owen finally managed to get up, he stood bent over for some time holding his knees, clearly in pain. This was all we fucking needed! Fortunately, Owen was running about the pitch in no time and showed no after effects of the horrible challenge.
In the second half we looked far more likely to leave as the winning team, with our attacks far more focussed and threatening. Antonio Valencia adds life to our attack. He´s put in two good performances against two good teams in Munich and I´m looking forward to seeing him in action in the Premiership. He is so good at running at players and taking them on, something Ronaldo seemed to steer away from in his last season with us, so that is great to see. He has no fear as he bursts down the right wing and is more than happy to come inside too. He put in a few good balls last night and it´s clear to see he will be a source of goals when the season starts.
After Berbatov´s woodwork effort in the first half, our best second half chances fell to Owen and Wayne Rooney. The keeper came out quickly to leave Owen with little room to poke it in to the net, whilst Rooney swung wildly from a tight angle to see his effort from close range go high over the bar. Scholes struck from distance too and as he was winding up to take the shot, the Bayern crowd gave a loud´oooooooh´in anticipation.
I was really impressed with the atmosphere, given that it was packed full of kids and families on their fun evening out. They were all prepared to get involved in the chanting and whilst they didn´t have a large song sheet to sing from, instead, just one or two chants, they were loud and enthusiastic. I could have done without all the paper planes being thrown all over the place though. You were ducking and diving to avoid them as they came hurtling from above. In the second half, the planes which reached the pitch received louder cheers than anything their players seemed to do!
So, it came to a penalty shoot-out and that was that. Edwin Van der Sar, who is usually so good at saving penalties, couldn´t do much against the efficient Germans. He tried as hard as he could to put them off by pointing to a certain direction in the goal and strolling to the line, but it had no effect. I would have fancied Patrice Evra to take a better penalty than he did but I wasn´t expecting much from Jonny Evans (who otherwise had a fantastic game for us!). Nani´s penalty was the best of the night, as, like usual, he shows us just how good he can be in small flashes, but Bayern did the best on the night. Oh well.
All in all, great tournament, great trip, great fans. I´ll give a better review of the whole thing once I´m away from the heat of this internet cafe and back in rainy Manchester!
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