Manchester United crashed out of Europe on away goals despite defeating Bayern at Old Trafford. Bayern Munich recovered from a disastrous start which saw them go three goals down in the first half, to turn the tie on its head. First leg hero Olic got one back for the Germans before Robben scored a spectacular volley to send Bayern into their first Champions League semi-final in nine years.
Wayne Rooney’s selection in the starting eleven raised quite a few eyebrows as he had been ruled out of the tie one day ago. United started with Darren Gibson in midfield, along with the industrious Fletcher and Carrick. Rafael was chosen ahead of Gary Neville at right back as the veteran had looked rather pale in his last few outings.
Just after three minutes into the game, Rafael dispossessed Ribery near the halfway line and delivered a perfect pass to United’s talismanic front man who laid it on to the charging Gibson. The Republic of Ireland international caught the German goalkeeper by surprise with a quick strike, to get United off to a flying start. Nani and Valencia looked sharp as they bombarded forward on either wings.
It didn’t take the Devils long to double their advantage as the Ecuadorian winger sent a dangerous low cross across Bayern’s six-yard box. An unmarked Nani delivered a cheeky back heel finish to send the OT faithful berserk. Rooney, who had not shown signs of the injury which had kept him out of the match against Chelsea, twisted his ankle once again, but carried on.
United took a leaf out of Barcelona’s book by pressing Munich hard, but over enthusiasm got the better of the inexperienced Rafael as he was booked for retaliation after he thought he had been fouled. This would prove to be a significant moment in the game later on.
Bayern struggled to get a foot hold in the game as they were under pressure for large periods during the first half an hour. United got their reward as the dangerous Nani got his second of the game from Valencia’s cross that he smashed past the helpless Butt.
The Red Devils were marching along and the tie looked as good as over. But there is something about the matches between these two sides – there’s always a twist in store. Just as United thought they were cruising along, Olic popped up and threaded the ball into United’s goal from an acute angle. This was only Bayern’s second attempt on goal in the first half; previously Van der Sar had denied Olic with a brilliant save. First half ended on a positive note for Bayern, as they had began to assert themselves in the game after the goal. It brought back their self-belief after a disastrous start.
Bayern swapped the ineffective Muller with Gomez upfront but it was Ribery who got the better of Rafael as he went past him only for the teenager to cynically bring him down. He got a second yellow and with that, his marching orders.. United were down to ten men and were holding on by the proverbial fingernail as the anxiety grew inside Old Trafford.
Sir Alex brought replaced the ‘unfit’ Wayne Rooney with O’Shea, who was making his return from an injury he suffered in December. Bayern’s relentless pressure on the ten-men United continued as the home team struggled to even get out of their own half.
Then came the moment that changed the complexion of the quarter-final. Long term United target Arjen Robben delivered a sumptuous first-time Volley befitting for the occasion, after being found on the edge of the box by a Ribery corner kick. His stunning strike against Fiorentina in the round of sixteen had left the Italians heart-broken, and this one silenced ‘The Theatre of Dreams’.
United were shell-shocked. The game that began so well for them, had slid from their grasps. Berbatov and Giggs were sent on in a bid to provide a moment of magic but it was to no avail. Bayern were confident in possession and didn’t give Man United even a sniff at goal as they made their numerical advantage count .
England’s last representative in Europe’s premier competition was sent packing as the German side booked a semi final date with French side Lyon. Sir Alex Ferguson’s worst dreams were realised after enduring a calamitous eight-day spell at Old Trafford.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Frank Ribery (Bayern Munich)
The Frenchman once again proved why all the big guns in Europe have him in their wish list. Arjen Robben deserves an honourable mention just for the brilliance of his strike.
TheHardTackle’s REFEREE REPORT CARD
Grade: C (Poor)
The referee made some curious calls, often letting play go on for obvious fouls. Though he was spot on with the sending off, his inconsistency when it came to fouling cost both teams.
MANCHESTER UNITED 3-2 BAYERN MUNICH
Venue: Old Trafford
Manchester United line-up: Van Der Sar, Evra, Ferdinand, Vidic, Rafael, Carrick (Berbatov 80′), Nani, Fletcher, Valencia, Gibson (Giggs 80′), Rooney (O’Shea 55′)
Manager: Alex Ferguson
Sent Off: Rafael
Scorers: Gibson (3′), Nani (7′, 41′)
Bayern Munich line-up: Butt, Van Buyten, Demichelis, Lahm, Holger Badstuber, Ribery, Van Bommel, Schweinsteiger, Robben (Altintop 76′), Olic (Pranjic 84′), Muller (Gomez 46′)
Manager: Luiz Van Gaal
Cautions: Badstuber, Van Bommel
Sent Off: None
Scorers: Olic (43′), Robben (74′)