Manchester United v Bayern Munich, Champions League quarter-final second leg, April 7, 2010
Has Wayne Rooneyâ€™s ankle ligament injury, sustained in the Allianz Arena in the first leg, derailed Manchester Unitedâ€™s season?
A fascinating second leg awaits at Old Trafford as Manchester Unitedâ€™s campaign hangs by a thread after successive defeats to Bayern and Chelsea. Wayne Rooney has dominated the headlines since falling awkwardly in the final seconds of the 2-1 defeat of the first leg and such is his importance that there have even been reports that he could make a sensational early return for the visit of the Bavarian giants.
Dimitar Berbatov (6.00 to score first, 2.20 anytime) has been widely criticised for failing to take over Wazzaâ€™s lone role up front in the defeat to Chelsea and Sir Alex Ferguson must be fretting following two of Unitedâ€™s worst performances in 2009/2010. After Rooneyâ€™s first minute opener in the first leg, the Red Devils made few chances and were generally on the back foot, especially in the second half.
On Saturday, despite a clearly offside second goal, Chelsea were the better team at Old Trafford and may have struck a killer blow in the race for the Premier League title. Besides Berbatov, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes (5.00 to score) and Ryan Giggs (3.30 to score) also received criticism across the back pages and are expected to make way for the young guard of Rafael da Silva, Michael Carrick and Nani.
The rest of the United team will pick itself with Patrice Evra looking to make up for a poor first leg performance and a crucial error for Ivica Olicâ€™s winning goal. Luis Antonio Valencia (4.00 to score) could also start after Ferguson regretted not starting the Ecuador winger in the opening match.
Bayern Munich come into this encounter buoyed by two excellent victories over the past week and the return of some massive players. Louis van Gaalâ€™s side followed up their first leg win with a massive victory away at main title rivals Schalke to return to the top of the Bundesliga. Franck Ribery scored a fine opener at Schalke and Thomas Muller the second as Bayern battled admirably for 49 minutes with ten men to win 2-1 after Hamit Altintop had been sent off.
Uli Hoeness, president of Bayern Munich, responded to that league victory by somewhat arrogantly proclaiming that “I’m very sorry for all the others, but if you’re honest you have to say that Bayern Munich is by far the best German team.” This may be seen as arrogant talk from the biggest club in the Bundesliga but as they are still involved in three competitions this may be the time they finally gain their revenge for their famous defeat to United in the 1999 Champions League final.
After missing the first leg Arjen Robben (13.00 to score first, 5.00 anytime) has been included in the Bayern squad travelling to Manchester and the Dutch winger, arguably the best player in the Bundesliga this season, could sway the tie after missing the first leg. Combative midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger also returns after suspension and Daniel Van Buyten is expected to start after coming off with an injury at Schalke.
The battle between Carrick and Fletcher versus Schweinsteiger and Van Bommel could be key, especially if the game is goalless for 60 minutes. The threat of Bayern on the break is also a real danger for Sir Alex and his side as Robben, Ribery (5.00 to score), Muller and Ivica Olic all have pace to burn.
But, regardless of whether Rooney plays or not, and the defeat to Chelsea, this is the type of game Manchester United have been winning in the Champions League for years. Bayernâ€™s defence is susceptible (in particular Martin Demichelis is a liability) and if it is Berbatov on his own up front, the Bulgarian should have a lot more joy than he did against Chelsea.
101gg predicts: Manchester United 4 – Bayern Munich 1 (25.18)