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article imageGuardiola displays pros & cons as Bayern defeat Manchester United

By Tyrrell Meertins     Apr 9, 2014 in Sports
For all the positives Pep Guardiola offers, the Spaniard’s inclination to constantly modify his sides isn’t necessarily positive.
It led to his downfall in his final season at Barcelona, and here, his tactical alterations negated the threat of his wide players.
There were no surprises regarding the general pattern of Bayern Munich’s victory over Manchester United –– frankly, it was quite similar to last week’s encounter at Old Trafford.
Patrice Evra, Shinji Kagawa, Chris Smalling and Darren Fletcher were included in David Moyes’ XI, and Wayne Rooney was deemed fit to play. Mario Mandzukic and Mario Gotze joined Bayern’s attack for the suspended Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez, while Phillip Lahm moved to right back.
As expected, Bayern dominated possession for large portions of the match, as United dropped into two banks of four without the ball. In attack, they stuck with their successful first leg direct approach, but Manuel Neuer was rarely tested. Rooney posed a few problems igniting attacks in the first half –– he nearly handing United the lead before hesitating in the box, and then he played a delightful cross to Antonio Valencia, which resulted in a goal that was rightly ruled offside –– and Danny Welbeck’s runs into the channels stretched Bayern’s back-line.
Despite Bayern’s superiority, the reigning European champions encountered problems of their own. At times this season, Gotze has failed to thrive alongside Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, and here the 21-year-old struggled to influence the match.
Still, the most proactive players on the pitch were Bayern’s wingers, but neither Ribery nor Robben were at their best. This was down to the positioning of David Alaba and Lahm –– the duo started the match at full-back, but when Bayern sustained possession they drifted into central areas as additional midfielders. The former was positioned higher up the pitch on the left, whereas the latter sat deeper to help Toni Kroos bypass United’s press and dictate the tempo.
Guardiola’s obsession with dominating the midfield is evident, and while the European champions confidently retained possession, Robben and Ribery were forced to hug the touch-line to provide width. In fairness, the wingers had their fair share of half-chances, but Robben, in particular, struggled to create clear-cut openings. When the Dutch winger received the ball he was placed in 1v3 situations –– against Kagawa, Evra and Michael Carrick –– while with help from Fletcher, Phil Jones coped with Ribery.
In the second half, Alaba positioned himself near United’s box, which pegged Valencia deeper, and enabled Ribery to torment Jones down the left flank. Valencia, however, exploited space down the right flank, and created United’s best chances of the match.
The Ecuadorian’s ball into the box evaded his teammates but fell to Patrice Evra, and the Frenchman fired a thunderous shot past Neuer. Unfortunately United’s lead lasted a minute as Gotze and Ribery combined on the left, and Mandzukic nodded the latter’s cross past David De Gea. Subsequently, Valencia was involved in the build up to Rooney’s squandered effort, and he played a clever ball into the path of Welbeck that nearly sent the England international free.
"They are a really good side and they showed it, but I thought we did what we had to do tonight - I thought we came here made it difficult for them, tactically we tried to stifle them as much as possibly but if you lose a goal just after we score it makes things really difficult,” Moyes said.
With the score levelled, Guardiola turned to his bench and introduced Rafinha for Gotze. Lahm moved into midfield, and Muller pushed forward behind Mandzukic, as Bayern became a 4-2-3-1. Now, Robben was provided the space to take on Evra, and the Dutch winger beat the Frenchman twice to set up Muller, and subsequently add his name on the score sheet.
“The game was very similar to the first leg in Manchester. Arjen [Robben] and Franck [Ribéry] were fantastic in the second half today. We tried to play in between the lines with Thomas [Müller] constantly on the move,” Guardiola said.
“I am very, very proud of my team. Everyone always says it is easy to win the Bundesliga title and continue playing at a high level, but it is not. The players ran their hearts out today and worked really hard. They deserve to be in the semi-finals,” he said.
Bayern return to the Champions League semi-finals for the third year in a row, this time making hard work of what was supposed to be a straightforward task. Guardiola's cautious approach at Old Trafford was peculiar, and his decision to overload the midfield with full-backs was equally mind-boggling.
There’s no question that the Spaniard possesses the strongest squad in the competition, but Bayern’s performances in the knockout round have displayed that they’re beatable.
While Pep Guardiola is certainly an asset towards the evolution of the European champions, the Spaniard’s incessant tactical tinkering makes him Bayern’s worst enemy.
More about Bayern munich, Pep Guardiola, Manchester United, Allianz Arena, Robben
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