Manchester United v Bayern Munich - 5 things to look out for
Can David Moyes' struggling team get past the best team in Europe?
Manchester United have been on the wrong end of some humiliating results at Old Trafford this season, none more so than the 3-0 losses inflicted by fierce rivals Liverpool and Manchester City in the Premier League over the past month.
Those beatings have prompted the same question among many United fans: Just how is the team going to prevent another thrashing by Bayern Munich, currently the best team in Europe, in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals?
For arguably the first time in the Champions League era, United head into a home match as the underdog – and for good reason.
Bayern are the reigning European champions, the recently anointed German champions and have only lost two games in all competitions this season – in the German Super Cup and against Manchester City in the Champions League when their place in the knockout stage was already guaranteed.
United, meanwhile, are enduring their worst season for some time and are languishing in seventh place in the English standings, with doubts hovering over the suitability of their manager and a slew of players.
Here are five things to know about Tuesday’s match:
After successfully defending their Bundesliga title in record time last week, Bayern Munich are looking to become the first side to retain the Champions League trophy in the competition’s modern format.
That is one of a host of milestones in their grasp.
Bayern remain on course to emulate last season’s treble (league, German Cup, Champions League) – and even better it. Saturday’s 3-3 draw at home to Hoffenheim ended Bayern’s Bundesliga-record winning run of 19 games but the side remain unbeaten in a league-record 53 games.
Bayern could become the first side to complete a Bundesliga season unbeaten in 51 years of the league, while the team looks set to eclipse last year’s record points total when their finished with 91 points. Bayern now have 78, with 18 still to play for.
MEMORIES OF 1999
Ever since United and Bayern were paired in the draw for the quarter-finals, there have been endless clips of the memorable final at the Camp Nou in 1999 that was settled in the English side’s favour by two injury-time goals.
Those were the glory days for United in the trophy-laden Alex Ferguson era – and they couldn’t be further away for United supporters.
This season – the first post-Ferguson – has been tough and one that manager David Moyes will be glad to see the back of.
“It’s been a difficult season for us,” Moyes said, “but we can go a long way to doing an awful lot better if we can get a result on Tuesday.”
Every win seems to be quickly followed by a new setback for Moyes in his first year at Old Trafford. So he may be slightly concerned that United head into the game on the back of a 4-1 victory over Aston Villa in the league.
BYE-BYE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE?
United should make the most of Tuesday’s match – it could the last one in the Champions League at Old Trafford for some time.
Moyes’ side are 10 points adrift of the top four in the Premier League, so are almost certain to miss out on Champions League qualification through their league placing. That means they can only qualify for the competition by winning it this season.
Given the rebuilding job that Moyes is planning, there’s no guarantee that United’s absence from the Champions League will be just the one season – as the recent demise of Liverpool over the past four years has shown.
Bayern coach Pep Guardiola has rotated his squad heavily this season and he rewarded his side for winning the Bundesliga in midweek by resting David Alaba, Jerome Boateng, Toni Kroos, Philipp Lahm, Thomas Mueller, Arjen Robben and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer for the league match against Hoffenheim on Saturday.
The result? Bayern allowed the visitors to come back from two goals down to snatch a 3-3 draw – the first time since a 3-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund in February 2011 that Bayern conceded three goals in a Bundesliga game at home. It was only the third time the side had dropped points in 28 league games this season.
Still, Bayern will be big favourites going into Tuesday’s game.
“All coaches around the world don’t want to be favourites before the game,” Guardiola said. “I can’t compete with that, I have to accept that ... But I know in the deep of my heart the team we are going to play against. Over one game or two games, they can beat us.”
Bayern will be without centre back Dante because of suspension, and Thiago Alcantara is also out of the quarter-finals – and the semi-finals, should the team progress – after tearing ligaments in his right knee during the first half against Hoffenheim.
Guardiola has enough strength in depth in his quality-packed squad to compensate for the loss of the talented Spaniard, however.
United have been hit harder by the loss of Robin van Persie, who is likely to be missing for the next month with a left knee injury. The Netherlands striker had scored 23 goals in 29 games for club and country this season.
Moyes said he has “defensive issues” ahead of the game, with right back Rafael da Silva missing training on Monday and left back Patrice Evra absent through suspension.
Central defender Rio Ferdinand could return after being rested at the weekend and 40-year-old midfielder Ryan Giggs may also be recalled after his impressive display in the second-leg victory over Olympiakos in the last 16. Juan Mata is cup-tied.