Wide and seek
Man United must watch the wide men if they want to get a result at Bayern Munich, says Phil Thompson.
Last Updated: 29/03/10 2:04pm
Bill Shankly once said: "The thing that surprises me is that people are surprised by surprises."
That seems to sum up what happened on that famous night in 1999 when Manchester United scored two goals in injury time to win the Champions League against Bayern Munich.
I remember that game very well. I thought Bayern Munich were the far better team on the night and dominated the whole game, but throughout the years Manchester United have been exceptional at scoring last-minute goals.
You have to play for 90 minutes plus injury time and it's never over until it's over - as they proved on the biggest stage of all. They'll know they didn't deserve to win, but as a player, manager and spectator I have been involved in many games that my team has lost when they should have won.
People shouldn't be surprised by anything. That's football.
However, that game is history now and it won't have any bearing when the two teams meet at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday night. You won't hear Bayern Munich talking about revenge or anything like that. They'll be focussed on the here and now.
Bayern have steadily improved as the season has progressed. They were drifting out of the title race but have clawed themselves back into it - although Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen will be pleased to see them lose at home to Stuttgart at the weekend.
I'm sure they had Manchester United on their minds in that game. The fact that a star player like Arjen Robben was on the bench for that match suggested they were trying to keep him fresh for Tuesday night. Unfortunately he came on and picked up a calf strain and could now miss the match.
That would be a huge bonus for United because along with Franck Ribery he is a matchwinner for the German side. In midfield, Mark Van Bommel is an exceptional player who drives the team on, but it's Robben and Ribery who can hurt you.
Robben can play on either flank, either going past people and delivering balls from the left or cutting inside from the right and bending or driving the ball into dangerous areas. We saw in the last round against Fiorentina what a threat he is.
If Robben doesn't make it then all of the pressure will be on Ribery to produce. You need exceptional players to do something out of the ordinary in the final third and while United have Wayne Rooney, Bayern will be looking to Ribery.
The Frenchman is in the shop window with talk of him moving to Manchester United in the summer. It was interesting to see reports of a £40million bid in the Sunday newspapers and the timing of that doesn't surprise me. It will rattle the cage at Bayern Munich and might unsettle the player, but I suspect he is too experienced to let that upset him these days.
If Robben plays you can expect to see him and Ribery switching flanks and if Gary Neville plays he will have to dig deep into all of his European experience to cope with that threat.
Neville knows he hasn't got the pace he used to have so he will have to rely on his positional play and be fully committed, as he always has been.
Bayern play 4-4-2, but I suspect Sir Alex Ferguson will go with his tried-and-trusted 4-5-1 formation in Munich. In home games against lesser teams they have gone 4-4-2, but I expect a similar team to the one that started against Liverpool last week.
That means Wayne Rooney up front on his own with Ji-Sung Park and Antonio Valencia supporting him. Then I expect Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick and possibly Paul Scholes to feature in midfield.
I imagine Ferguson decided to leave Rooney out against Bolton to ensure he's fully fit for this game to play in that lone striker role. Dimitar Berbatov has been playing very well and would now have the confidence to lead the line in Rooney's absence, but he doesn't possess the pace and power that Rooney gives you in a European away leg.
Man United need something to go back to Old Trafford with and they need to keep the score down and give themselves a chance.
The draw has fallen well for them because in the quarter-finals you want to play the second leg at home. That won't be the case in the semis, but facing Lyon or Bordeaux was the easiest available draw.
At this moment I think United are strong enough to get to the Champions League Final... but I can see them losing narrowly in Germany.
THOMMO'S CALL - I think a 2-1 win for Bayern Munich would be an acceptable result for Manchester United fans. I feel Bayern might just tip it on the night but I can see United going through over the two legs.