The moment of truth is nearly upon us. Wednesday’s Champions League quarter final second leg at Old Trafford could not be more finely poised. Bayern Munich have a slender 2-1 advantage from the first leg in Germany but will be acutely aware that there is no room for error with United having scored a vital away goal. It certainly promises to be a night of high drama at the Theatre of Dreams.
Much of the pre match talk though will focus on the scorer of that away goal, Wayne Rooney . Having netted in the first, he was injured in the very last minute of the game in the build up to Bayern’s winner through Ivica Olic. The England star has been ruled out of Wednesday’s return game but such is the importance of Rooney to United this season, that the spectre of his absence is possibly the most important factor in the tie. There is even some speculation that he will play some part even if it’s off the bench but don’t count on it.
Bayern Munich defender Daniel Van Buyten feels that Rooney’s injury is important because without him United have much less threat in front of goal. Indeed, Manchester United looked to struggle in attack during Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at home to Chelsea. They seemed to lack the spark that Rooney so often provides and much will depend on Dimitar Berbatov. The Bulgarian has been in good form of late, but Sir Alex Ferguson has virtually no other attacking options should Berbatov fail to fire on all cylinders.
Ferguson left Nani and Michael Carrick on the bench against Chelsea but both stand a realt chance of returning to the starting eleven against Bayern. United will need Carrick to help Darren Fletcher boss the midfield while Nani provides an important cutting edge to their attacking play. Ferguson will also be mindful of the important experience provided by Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs who have been through this type of test so many times before and he will have no hesitation to throw them into the fray.
Bayern Munich’s recent fortunes have been good. They come into Wednesday’s clash in confident mood, having beaten Schalke 2-1 in a crucial top of the table clash to return to the top of the Bundesliga. A resurgent Franck Ribery followed up his first leg goal with another strike to add to a goal from Thomas Mueller and Bayern battled to victory despite the sending off of Hamit Altintop.
While United bemoan the absence of Rooney, Bayern will be delighted to welcome back their own talisman Arjen Robben who missed the first leg. The Dutchman has been in sparkling form for the Bavarians this season and will pose a serious threat to the United defence.
Bayern will be unlikely to sit back and defend their slight lead. Expect them to attack and look to deliver a killer blow with an away goal early on. However, the longer the game goes on without a goal, the more the midfield battle will be crucial. Bayern manager Louis van Gaal will look towards skipper Mark van Bommel and Sebastian Schweinsteiger to come into their own should the game develop into an attritional battle.
United were let down by a luck luster midfield in the last two matches so a vast improvement can be expected. The back four will also be tight as a drum and should be able to deny Bayern the away goal they crave so much. In the end it will depend on United being able to get the breakthrough which will send them into the semi final. With the Old Trafford crowd roaring them on, it will eventually come.
Do you expect United to get past the Bayern hurdle?