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Van der Sar Saves Man United's Blushes Against Munich

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.

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  1. brn442

    March 31, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    Is it just me who thought Van der Sar would’ve or should’ve been the natural successor to Peter Schmeichel as opposed to going to Fulham?

    As a neutral, I was so grateful for the Munich equalizer as it knocked the match off of auto – pilot.

    I wonder if Sir Alex had a young Nicky Butt or a healthy Hargreaves, he would have tried to protect that away goal instead of bringing on Giggs.

    Manchester will have to chase the game and with no Rooney and Healthy Robben coming in – it may end up being a frustrating draw.

  2. wozza

    March 31, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    I agree about the result – it’s going to be great for the return match! Man U won’t play like that at home!

  3. Trent

    March 31, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    I think United will end up going through, but Bayern definitely have the players to hit on the counter (Ribery, Robben, etc).

  4. Tyson

    March 31, 2010 at 11:42 am

    He was definitely sensational and he seemed to be the only competent player in the back. The goal that deflected as you said was going in, no way VDS was going to get to it. It was stupid giving away a handball there though to be fair Neville seemed to slip.

    The second goal was again not Van Der Sars fault I don’t know what Evra was going but he should have shut down the ball. I think he must have slipped or something but he seemed to change direction completely when he was about to make contact with the ball. It made no sense, it was either a huge mistake or some sort of accident. Again though VDS from that point really couldn’t do anything it caught him by surprise.

    The second goal was a horrible one to give away as well. I mean seriously guys that should have not been a goal that was the worst play of the entire night by far I really can’t understand how they couldn’t close it down they were there and they seemed to gravitate away from the ball for some reason.

    It was a bad night all in all Rooney threw away 2 chances to score himself. Either way this is a sobering reminder of a fact. The record of English teams against Bayern is horrible and Bayern are 4 time European champions. If United play properly I think they will edge a victory but if they take them lightly they have no chance what so ever. Bayern Munich are an incredible team.

  5. RedMD

    March 31, 2010 at 9:21 am

    To be fair, United did squander some clear cut chances to move ahead a few goals themselves (Rooney 1 v 1 with Butt comes to mind). However, they gave the ball away far too much to have expected much more than what they got. Seems a similar performance overall to the first half in the San Siro last round, the difference being a bit more luck then, and they never snapped out of it last night like they did in the second half at Milan. Hopefully they should be a bit more composed at Old Trafford to keep the ball and give themselves a chance. I just hope a repeat of the Dortmund tie in 1997 isnt on the horizon.

  6. CTBlues

    March 31, 2010 at 8:54 am

    It was an amazing game to watch. I think it will be a close one at Old Trafford, but I think the edge goes to Bayern since Robben and Schweinsteiger will be back on the squad.

  7. Devils Advocate

    March 31, 2010 at 7:31 am

    There were (and can be) no complaints from United on this one. Bayern were the much better team on the night and I have a feeling of unease about the return leg at Old Trafford. United’s midfield misfired badly last night and lacked the “cut and thrust” normally associated with their style of play.

    United are perfectly capable of winning the return leg but they cannot afford a performance as woeful as last night’s. Control of midfield will be of paramount importance. (Owen Hargreaves is needed)

    On the plus side, United normally respond best when they are behind. Game on!

  8. Bishopville Red

    March 31, 2010 at 6:23 am

    Time and time again, I hear names like Joe Hart and Shay Given. For some reason people keep forgetting about Ed VDS. Finally a little respect for the best ‘keeper in the Premiership.

  9. Richard

    March 31, 2010 at 6:17 am

    Good article. I’ll be honest though, I half thought I’d come on here to see you (not you The Gaffer, you EPLTalk) saying United aren’t that good, they’ll get knocked out, season is over, etc.

    But no, a very accurate portrait or what happened last night. VDS was a ‘match-winner’ (even though they lost), because this tie is still alive and I expect United to Bayern off at Old Trafford.

    Bayern were very good, but their defense is very suspect. This may sound stupid, but the only risk I see for United is if they play badly on Wednesday. If they play anything like they can then they will have too much for Bayern.

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