Vidic keeps United dream alive

Manchester United 1 Bayern Munich 1

Vidic keeps United dream alive

Such are Moyes’s travails in his first year at the club, however, that the lead was not only scarcely deserved but also predictably short-lived before Bastian Schweinsteiger restored some order to the European football universe with an equaliser that leaves Bayern even greater favourites for a place in the Champions League semi-finals than they had been before last night’s kick-off.

Still, United fans — to paraphrase one of their own songs — can at least dream the impossible dream after Vidic slipped marker Jerome Boateng to send a superb, twisting seven-yard header flying past Manuel Neuer in the German goal from Wayne Rooney’s 59th-minute corner.

The equaliser, however, demonstrated the superiority displayed on the night by the reigning European champions as overlapping right-back Rafinha crossed for substitute Mario Mandzukic to lay the ball off for Schweinsteiger to score with a clinical 12-yard rising shot.

The fact that Schweinsteiger was dismissed in the last minute of normal time, a second yellow card for a foul on Rooney, thus adding him to defender Javi Martinez in picking up a suspension for the return, at least gave United a further glimmer of hope for the return leg in Bavaria, but the real indication of how far their star has fallen in such a short time lies in the fact that a home draw could be interpreted as a moral victory.

Once the predictably frenetic opening exchanges were out of the way, the gulf in class — and, of course, confidence — between the combatants had been brutally apparent although, astonishingly, United reached the interval with their goalkeeper David de Gea only really tested once.

Indeed, and what an astonishing turn of events this would have been based on first-half possession statistics which stood at 78% to 22% in Bayern’s favour, the home side should have been ahead.

After 39 minutes, Ryan Giggs made his only telling contribution of the half, a short pass to Rooney which the England forward played ahead into the path of Danny Welbeck who benefited from a slip by defender Jerome Boateng. It left Welbeck clean through on Neuer but inexplicably the United man attempted an abysmally-executed chip which the goalkeeper saved with one hand.

Bayern stroked the ball around with an arrogance and ease which bordered on the hypnotic. It was reminiscent of training sessions in which teams practise defensive “shapes” by massing defenders behind the ball without being allowed to make a meaningful challenge.

On the odd occasion United did gain possession, they would instantly return it to the Germans via long, aimless punts forward — Alexander Buttner chief culprit here — or by committing unforced errors. So poor was Marouane Fellaini in the latter respect that his own supporters cheered sarcastically when he finally managed to do something correctly in heading out of his own area.

Yet, for all their technical superiority and grace, Bayern proved too predictable in much of their approach play and only when United failed to close down Arjen Robben on the half-hour was de Gea troubled, the goalkeeper diving sharply to keep out the attempt.

Yes, there were some anxious moments, inevitably carved out by Robben, Frank Ribery or even full-back Alaba, who operated as a third winger at times, but United defended resolutely, sometimes desperately, and the biggest risk to them losing a goal seemed to lie in their own frustrations.

Antonio Valencia was the game’s first booking, hacking down Philipp Lahm after 14 minutes as United toiled to get a foot on the ball, and Phil Jones endured near embarrassment when he launched himself at Ribery, only for his would-be victim to back-heel the ball out of harm’s way, tip-toeing around the defender in the process.

Perversely, it was a promising enough half for Moyes to bring on the more offence-minded Shinji Kagawa at the interval, taking off Giggs who, not surprisingly, had made nowhere near the impact he had made in his team’s 3-0 win over Olympiacos in the last round. And Moyes’s approach was quickly vindicated, Rooney following up an early header, which was comfortably saved, with the corner that led to the opening goal.

Rooney’s quick free-kick almost sent Kagawa clean through on goal soon after but a Bayern response was inevitable and duly came, leaving the tie leaning firmly in the visitors’ favour thanks to the away goal.

It should have been toppling in their favour over the last 20 minutes as Robben curled a shot just wide, shot just the wrong side of the post then saw Ribery’s low cross-shot fly across a gaping goalmouth.

Subs for United: Young for Buttner, 73, Kagawa for Giggs, 45, Hernandez for Welbeck 84.

Subs for Bayern: Gotze for Kroos 74, Mandzukic for Muller, 62.

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