The FourFourTwo Preview: Man United vs Bayern Munich
"If I hadn't had success at Aberdeen I definitely couldn't do it," Sir Alex Ferguson commented in 1990 upon winning his first silverware at United after nearly four years in charge. "To be at Manchester United you have got to have real bottle and character… I had to dig deep into my personal resources because when you get a lot of criticism doubts begin to creep into your own mind."
MAN UNITED FORM
- Man Utd 4-1 Aston Villa (Lge)
- Man Utd 0-3 Man City (Lge)
- West Ham 0-2 Man Utd (Lge)
- Man Utd 3-0 Olympiakos (Cup)
- Man Utd 0-3 Liverpool (Lge)
BAYERN MUNICH FORM
- Bayern 3-3 Hoffenheim (Lge)
- Hertha 1-3 Bayern (Lge)
- Mainz 0-2 Bayern (Lge)
- Bayern 2-1 Leverkusen (Lge)
- Bayern 1-1 Arsenal (Cup)
If there is one person who can relate to the dark cloud currently following Moyes around like a stray dog, it will be the man sitting in the directors' box, gloomily casting an eye over his chosen one and wondering where it all went wrong.
Ferguson's strong conviction that Moyes will get it right is probably 90% responsible for his fellow Scot still being in the dugout today, as the almost universal battering of Everton's former gaffer continues.
That 'Moyes out' 'Moyes sacked' 'Moyes joke' and 'Moyes meme' are four of the first five Google suggestions when you type in the United manager's name pretty much sums up their current predicament.
And after two absolute pastings at the hands of Manchester City and Liverpool - the first time in history both rivals have done the double over the Red Devils in the same season - it won't be too comforting to see European champions Bayern Munich rocking up to town.
Ah, Bayern Munich. Where to begin? Their 7-0 whitewash against Barcelona over two legs of their Champions League semi-final last season represented a passing of the baton of European football dominance from pint-sized Catalan princes to German geniuses and their new brand of "muscular tiki-taka" (whatever that is). Bayern took that baton and haven't looked back since.
An incredible 53-game unbeaten league run - 17 games more than any side has managed in Bundesliga history - has seen Pep Guardiola's team wrap up the title in record time with a team that marries tactical strength with hard work, physicality with intelligence and individual brilliance with an almost perfect team ethos.
Following on from their treble-winning season, Bayern have added the UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup and 24th Bundesliga crown, and they arrive at Old Trafford looking to steamroller a hesitant team devoid of confidence and continue their quest to become the first team to win back-to-back Champions Leagues.
Anyone who watched the meek and hapless way United folded against Man City might call this Mission Impossible. Then again, we doubt even Tom Cruise would fancy this one.
Player to watch: Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich)
On the night the outgoing English champions were getting slapped senseless by their next-door neighbours, Bayern were in Berlin, cake-walking their way to the title. Deployed in a central midfield role that has helped revitalise the erstwhile full-back's career, Pep's tactical realigning of the German has been a revelation.
Lahm has had a distinguished career in defence, but has shown incredible technique and tactical intelligence in the way he's adapted seamlessly to the challenges of a deep-lying midfielder. Against Hertha Berlin last week Lahm completed 100% of his passes, the full 134/134, on a night when United's starting trio of midfielders Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Tom Cleverley only completed 136 passes between them.
Guardiola has two choices at Old Trafford. He may deploy Lahm as a holding midfielder to help grab control of the game centrally, distribute passes and dictate play in his customarily excellent, metronomic fashion. Alternatively, the Spanish sage may wish to revert Lahm to right-back (as he did against Arsenal at the Emirates) and allow him freedom down the right flank to cause mischief while an extra, more offensive midfield option such as Thomas Muller attempts to befuddle United centrally.
Given Patrice Evra's first-leg suspension, one imagines Lahm will play centrally and the pacier, more aggressive Rafinha will join forces with Arjen Robben to double-team the inexperienced Alex Buttner. It could get ugly.
Moyes has lost 13 games in his first season at United so far. Guardiola has lost 14 games in nearly five years in all competitions. We think that pretty much sums this one up. Best of luck, Moyesie!
Facts and figures
- United have kept a clean sheet in 5 of their 8 Champions League games this season; no side has kept more.
- Since the 1999 final, United have won just 1 of their 6 CL encounters with Bayern (W1 D2 L3).
- United have won their last 5 CL matches against German opposition, 2 of which came against Bayer Leverkusen this season.
- United have scored in each of their last 14 CL meetings with German clubs, but the last one to stop them scoring was Bayern in March 2002.
- Bayern have won 7 successive CL away games and are unbeaten in their last 9 away from home (W8 D1).
- Bayern have only failed to score in 1 of their last 27 CL matches, but it came against English opposition (at home to Arsenal in March 2013).
More FFT Stats Zone facts
While Moyes has said he sees weaknesses in this Bayern team, it's difficult to envisage United having the personnel or tactical nous to pull off a remarkable result. The United of yesteryear would have been pumped for this one. The United of today has won one of 13 games against the Premier League's top nine. 3-0 Bayern.