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article imageMoyes' pragmatism outwits Guardiola's cautious Bayern Munich

By Tyrrell Meertins     Apr 1, 2014 in Sports
David Moyes left Old Trafford a disappointed man as Manchester United earned a valiant draw against European Champions Bayern Munich. Bayern thoroughly dominated possession –– as expected –– but were outwitted by Moyes’ efficient approach.
United started the match in a 4-3-3, that was practically a 4-5-1 due to Bayern’s superiority in possession, but Moyes’ pragmatism nearly created another historic night at Old Trafford. Despite possessing an inferior midfield, United relied on the experience of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, Wayne Rooney’s work-rate, and Danny Welbeck’s pace and strength upfront.
Welbeck and Rooney’s dynamism contributed to Bayern’s nervy start as they harried Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez when they received the ball. United attempted to peg Bayern in their zone when they tried to play from the back, and while their efforts were successful, it left gaps in midfield for Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery to drift into to receive possession.
Bayern’s wingers tormented United throughout the match, but in the first half, they received too much space in midfield, and it was shocking that their dominance didn’t result in goals. Ribery and David Alaba posed Phil Jones problems down the left flank, and forced Vidic to make a key intervention to deny Thomas Muller the opportunity to hand Bayern the lead. Robben, on the other hand, was lively on the opposite flank and forced David De Gea to make his only save of the half with his curling effort.
Shockingly, it was United who got into the best positions in the opening half. When the home side won possession, they aimed to facilitate balls into the channels for Welbeck and Valencia to attack. Rooney was often the catalyst behind the attacks, and his misplaced through ball nearly created United’s opener.
Jerome Boateng failed to deal with Rooney’s delivery, and Welbeck broke free on goal, but his chipped effort was comfortably pushed aside by Manuel Neuer. Welbeck was once again superb in a monumental European tie –– the 23-year-old attacker constantly tormented the Bayern back-line with his strength, pace and tactical discipline
United coped with Bayern’s threat in attack for large portions of the match due to their caution in possession. There was minimal guile and penetration in the final third, and while Muller created space for his teammates and linked play in the final third, Guardiola’s men were too precise around the edge of the box.
Vidic and Ferdinand struggle when they defend higher up the pitch, as they’re vulnerable against pacy attackers. Here, they were in their comfort zone –– United defended deep, and the former was first to every ball in the box, whereas the latter made several blocks to maintain their slender lead. Both men were exceptional on the night, and it was fitting to see Vidic’s magnificent header hand United the lead.
"We felt we had good positions and were solid, but one mistake was punished and they showed what a good team they are," Vidic said.
"They had a lot of possession but we accepted they would and we tried to counter attack.”
Bayern responded quickly, and a mixture of Moyes’ tactical modification and Marouane Fellaini’s mental lapse contributed to Bastian Schweinsteiger’s equalizer. Shinji Kagawa’s introduction saw United become a 4-4-2 with Welbeck in an advanced position, as Moyes intended on exploiting space behind Bayern’s back-line.
United’s narrow midfield bank awarded Rafinha space to push into advanced positions –– in the first half Ryan Giggs and Welbeck shuttled over to the left to negate his threat –– to overlap Robben when he received the ball on the right flank. The Brazilian surged forward and played a cross to substitute Mario Mandzukic, who nodded the ball into open space for Schweinsteiger to fire a venomous strike past De Gea.
"The result is 1-1 so we scored away, so this is good. I am happy for our performance, 70 per cent possession, 15 attempts," Guardiola said.
"It is not easy to create the chances but we created quite enough."
Robben was involved in two late chances subsequent to Schweinsteiger’s goal but both efforts went wide of the net. United failed to pose a threat in Bayern’s third in the final 15 minutes, but Martinez and Schweinsteiger were both booked, thus meriting a suspension in the second leg.
Guardiola’s cautious approach saw Bayern produce one of their poorest performances this season, but Moyes’ effective tactics shouldn’t be overlooked.
"The players played very well. I was a bit disappointed that we conceded a goal but it was a really good performance," Moyes said.
Moyes' side exploited Bayern’s defence with Welbeck’s pace, and their structured shape without the ball coped with the German's attack –– yet one defensive lapse deprived United supporters a night to remember.
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