Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.
Manchester United vs Bayern Munich | Tuesday 01 April | Old Trafford | 20:45
There are certain sporting rivalries that seem to transcend their individual discipline. Whether it be the Ali-Frazier rivalry touching on a hot bed of racial tension, or the grace of Federer counterpoised by Nadal’s grim determination, sport has various feuds that penetrate the viewer to the bone. Manchester United and Bayern Munich is a dynastic struggle that has a similar effect on the football fraternity. Munich is synonymous with perhaps United’s two most iconic moments; the traumatic Munich air disaster and their glorious treble crowning glory of 1999. This year United face Munich in a classical tale of contrasting fortunes, United’s season hangs on the verge of despair while Bayern push for European domination. Whatever the result, this should prove yet another captivating chapter in this most compelling rivalry.
To Win (90mins)
Manchester United 57/10
Bayern Munich 9/20
David Moyes cut a brave figure this weekend as he entered Old Trafford earlier than the players, knowing full well of the private plane chartered by disgruntled fans that called for the Scotsman’s dismissal. United gave a somewhat reinvigorated performance, Wayne Rooney once again showing his value to the side with two more vital goals. Robin Van Persie’s injury will necessitate the inclusion of Danny Welbeck, probably a good thing given the English striker’s undeniable work rate. The midfield will be a great level of concern however, as United struggle to deal with the fluidity of Bayern’s vaunted options.
Rafael is an injury worry while Evra is suspended, so the wing backs that David Moyes chooses to deploy will have their work cut out with the speed and dynamism of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. However, their biggest issue will be the middle of the park. Michael Carrick has consistently shown an inability to adapt to the higher paced encounters, such as Liverpool at Old Trafford. This invariably puts even greater pressure on their static defence and the increasingly isolated figure of Wayne Rooney. His energy is exemplary, but I’m certain that United would want him to concentrate more exclusively on the final quarter of the midfield. Fellaini has impressed in recent weeks, attempting to adopt the role never properly filled since the absence of Roy Keane. Juan Mata is cup tied, which may see the venerable figure of Ryan Giggs drafted in to consolidate the midfield. Whichever line-up they go for, they will benefit from accepting their lot as the inferior side, and will do well to try and contain the Bayern juggernaut for as long as possible.
Bayern drew on the weekend, which has hardly any relevance given the fact that are already the crowned Bundesliga champions. The manner in which they tamed Arsenal will give the Bavarian giants added confidence in their travels to Old Trafford. As if they need any. The well-oiled megalith has an almost unearthly presence this year, doing the apparently unthinkable and actually improving upon a treble-winning blueprint. Alcantara and Gotze have given the side added depth while Robben and Ribery always have the ability to break sides apart with pace and flair. But it is their versatility that truly astounds, the way that basically every player has both attacking and defensive dimensions.
Bastian Schweinsteiger’s ‘Kaiser Mach 2’ thing has evolved to an even greater level of maturity, while Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and Philipp Lahm continue to be the undisputed German heartbeat of the side. The major question is who exactly Bayern want to omit. Lahm and Rafinha may well look to bomb forward and expose United’s vulnerable defence. I expect Bayern to go ultra aggressive, in the full realisation of United’s complete fragility. I just can’t see United handling the pace of Robben and Ribery; look at the way Liverpool managed to dominate them through pace. Nemanja Vidic will struggle with Bayern’s clever runs, and this should be a long night for an already embattled United side.
VERDICT: Bayern Munich 9/20
United should actually feel proud of themselves for reaching the final eight with a side probably more suited to Europa League competition this year. Their lack of defensive mobility is the huge issue, as Bayern have utterly destroyed far stronger defences. United’s one slight advantage is that Bayern are a more known entity now. Barcelona tried, to their peril, to go toe-to-toe with Bayern in last year’s semi-final, but fell woefully short of the Teutonic giants. Chelsea’s ‘you shall not pass’ manifesto is perhaps the more intelligent approach, but it should make little difference as Bayern take a step towards yet another semi-final. The over-under total goals market is where to find some value, over 2.5 priced at 6/10.
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