99, Reds and Doom – 10 Things I noticed from Bayern vs Man Utd

1. Voodoo Child – In the fluorescent radioactive cocoon that is the Allianz Arena, a bizarrely engrossing and engrossingly bizarre game of football played out, as Manchester United forgot how to pass to each other, Bayern Munich exorcized the ghost of ’99, and a small tornado was formed over the Atlantic Ocean as 51 million people on a small island off the northwest coast of continental Europe all took a sharp intake of breath at exactly the same moment. Despite Sir Alex Ferguson brushing off the injury to his star player, Wayne Rooney, as “not terribly serious” and television replays showing it was a simple ankle rolling and not the dreaded voodoo metatarsal, United’s last minute defeat in the first leg of their Champions League quarter final was completely over shadowed by hysterical doom mongering as United’s chances in the second leg, England’s chances at the World Cup, England’s chances of hosting the World Cup, England’s chances in the Ashes, Andy Murray’s chances at Wimbledon, David Haye’s chances of retaining his belt, Gordon Brown’s chances in the General Election and Lee Sharpe’s reality TV career were all written off in an instant.

2. And when you’re up you’re up, and when you’re down you’re down – Everything had started so well for Rooney and United. After the teams had entered through an underground space tunnel to the sound of O Fortuna, Rooney breezed past Zorro (played tonight by Martin Demichelis) to tap the visitors ahead within a minute. It looked for all the world like it was going to be a romp for the English Champions but after 15 minutes or so of relative comfort, they suddenly forgot how to pass that little round rubbery thing to each other and the home side seized the initiative. However Rooney could easily have put them two up before the end of the half, but hit his shot tamely at Butt after sterling work from Fletcher down the left. Despite all the talk from Bayern players in the week of Rooney being a one man team, they seemed woefully incapable of remembering this and actually marking him, despite the best efforts of the masked avenger.

3. A Chance’d be a fine thing – In fact United could have wrapped this tie up despite being incredibly average because for all Bayern’s possessional domination, the away side looked the far more threatening in attack. This despite rarely ever attacking. Munich seemed obsessed with looping the ball out of play from wide areas for no particular reason and when they weren’t doing this they looked to be labouring under the impression Edwin van der Sar was playing for them and found him constantly with a succession of pin-point crosses. Franck Ribery spent much of the first half distracted by the fact he’d turned up to the party in the same silly pink footwear as Nani – who himself should have scored soon after Rooney – and although United’s defending was incredibly hectic and rushed, they still never looked under any particular danger from a relatively toothless Bayern side, summed up – in the first half at least – by Olić, who missed a sitter from a yard out by failing to even make connect.

4. Franck You Wayne – After the interval, the pattern of the game continued as Bayern pushed forward and Ribery decided he was going to join in. After being completely nullified by Gary Neville and his amazing ageless beard in the first half, the battle scarred Frenchmen started to cause real problems in the second. Despite a good 30 minutes of giving the ball away at every opportunity though, United still didn’t look in that much trouble, and so it was no surprise that the player who eventually did score for the hosts was Rooney, who’d looked like the only person capable in front of goal anyway, as he neatly flicked Ribery’s free kick past his own keeper.

5. Sing when you’re winning – After this Bayern really stepped up the pressure as the home crowd egged them on with their own version of Chelsea’s one word club name mantra chant. Though still sticking manfully to their “looping the ball out of play from bad crosses” tactic, they had now comprehensively over run United in midfield and Wayne Rooney was getting so frustrated he’d started kicking people.

6. I’m ready for my close up Mr. Ne ville – The rather scrappy and hurried nature of the game was enhanced by the fact that everyone seemed to be playing far too close to each other. The aesthetics of this weren’t helped by the cameramen who seemed obsessed with cutting to close up shots whenever anyone was in a wide area. This also included full backs in their own half for no reason but was mainly utilized just when someone was about to put a cross in, only cutting back to the standard wide shot when the cross was in mid air in the middle of the penalty area. This made it infuriatingly hard to see what the hell was happening most of the time. The worst case of this kind of directorial rubbishness came in stoppage time though, as Mario Gomez ghosted into the penalty area and seemed certain to score, only for the camera to cut away to the fourth official holding up the added time board and back again just in time to see Van der Sar pull off an excellent but unusual falling over backwards save.

7. Late in the day – Despite Bayern’s dominance, the best chance to win the game in standard time fell to United, as a Ryan Giggs corner found Nemenja Vidic who crashed a classic center back’s header clean onto the bar in what looked like being the last chance of the game. United still looked the most likely to actually convert their chances and clearly aware of this, Louis van Gaal and his amazingly odd nose decided to try and change their fortunes by bringing on one out of form striker, and one injured one. This trumped Alex Ferguson’s tactic of bringing on a striker as a midfielder and an attacking winger for a defensive one whilst under considerable pressure. The wisest decision of all however turned out to be leaving on Olić, who, despite his fantastic work rate and enthusiasm, had looked generally quite poor at being a striker all afternoon.

8. Party like it’s 1999 – But what do I know? Clearly not a lot, and after Martin Tyler in the Sky commentary box had mentioned the possibility of Bayern snatching a late winner and all the delicious ironing that would cause every 20 seconds for the last 15 minutes, it eventually did come to pass, in some cosmic reversal of the usual commentators curse. Ivica Olić seized on some criminal daydreaming from Patrice Evra to mug the Frenchman, shimmy his way in front of goal and bury it in the bottom corner. Cue wild celebrations, that ridiculous rule about taking your shirt off, a gleefully vindicated Martin Tyler and the sight of Rooney hobbling off to end the game in complete frenzy and instantly turn what was looking like a decent result and let off for United into the worst ending since M. Night Shyamalan’s WWII epic, which might possibly not exist.

9. Going Dutch – In the aftermath at Studio Sky, Ruud Gullit hit the nail squarely on the head by proclaiming United were guilty of having “Sh*t back”, which, although likely an accent malfunction, was certainly true in Partice Evra’s case. How “sit” Wayne Rooney’s foot is though, is something the nation will have to sweat over in the coming weeks.

10. The Lyon beats tonight – In a quick word on the all-French tie, which looked like a rollicking encounter by all accounts, Lyon dealt a hammer blow to their rival compatriots by gaining a two-goal cushion courtesy of a hugely harsh penalty award. Gullit attributed this open attacking game to the laissez-faire attitude of French football, where players are allowed to do their tricks and flicks without intense pressure.  Unfortunately he didn’t chose to describe this as “not being sat on”, much too my immense disappointment.

You can follow Oscar on Twitter here; http://twitter.com/oscarpyejeary, where you can join him in plotting the assassination of the Go Compare man…it’ll never get back to us if we do it right!

 


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