As a neutral observer, the best thing that could have happened on Tuesday night in the Champions League was for Manchester United to lose. After Wayne Rooney scored one of the easiest goals he’s ever scored in the second minute at the Allianz Arena against Bayern Munich, it seemed as if this was going to be another Manchester United on cruise control performance. It seemed inevitable that United would hang on and carve out a one-nil victory on the road.
But fair play to Bayern Munich. They were the better team on the night and thoroughly deserved to get at least a point from this match. Their late goal by Olic to make the final result 2-1 to Bayern Munich sets up a mouthwatering fixture for next week’s Champions League match in Old Trafford. And it’s exactly what neutral observers like myself would want. It’s about time a team pushed Manchester United to its limits to see what it’s made of. And it’s about time the Champions League didn’t become so predictable.
Having said that, I’m confident that Manchester United will win at Old Trafford next week to move through to the semi-final of the Champions League even if Wayne Rooney may miss the match due to his ankle injury. It won’t be a pushover for Manchester United, by any means.
But, for me, the deciding factor in Tuesday night’s game was a player who has been at the top of his game lately and his name is not Wayne Rooney. His name is Edwin van der Sar.
It may seem odd to single out van der Sar especially when he let in two goals against Bayern Munich Tuesday night, but in fairness to the Dutch goalkeeper, the scoreline could have been much worse for United as the German team created far more chances in front of goal, and could have won 3-1 or 4-1 if van der Sar wasn’t on form.
He made several clinical saves and especially strong ones from Altintop and Olic. The save of the match for me, though, was when Mario Gomez hit a point blank shot at van der Sar and he made a crucial save to parry the ball away from the net.
When van der Sar finally was beaten, it was from a wicked deflection from Riberry’s free kick which van der Sar had no chance of saving. And Bayern’s second goal was a tricky one to stop when Olic had the massive advantage of being one-on-one against van der Sar and slotting the ball calmly past the United goalkeeper. In fairness to van der Sar, his United back four fell asleep for the second goal. When Gomez shifted his way through the United defense and was knocked to the ground by Nemanja Vidic, the four United players near the ball seemed to switch off for a few seconds as they expected a free kick to be called. But Patrice Evra lost the ball under his feet, allowing Olic to zip past Evra and Ferdinand to score from close-range.
Both in the Bayern Munich match and last weekend’s game against Bolton, van der Sar has saved Man United from so many red blushes by making incredible saves that most other goalkeepers (barring Sunderland’s Craig Gordon who has been the revelation I was hoping he would be in the past weeks) would have been unable to make. His match against Bayern was definitely not his best performance of late, but he definitely reduced the scoreline and puts Man United in a pole position to win next week especially given their crucial away goal.
Were you impressed by Bayern Munich’s performance and do you think the Germans can win the second leg or hold on for a draw at Old Trafford next week? Share your opinion in the comments section below.