Breaking Down Manchester United's Champions League Quarter-Final with Bayern

Rob Blanchette@@_Rob_BFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2014

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 07:   Franck Ribery of Bayern Muenchen battles for the ball with Rafael of Manchester United during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final second leg match between Manchester United and Bayern Muenchen at Old Trafford on April 7, 2010 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Nobody wants to draw Bayern Munich, do they?

Certainly Barcelona and Real Madrid did not.

Chelsea and Jose Mourinho have taken to being the modern-day wolf in sheep's clothing, wanting everyone to believe they are not very good despite sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League and comfortably cruising into the last eight of Europe.

They, too, did not want Bayern. 

Simply put, the team from Bavaria are the best on the planet at the moment.

And they are perfect for Manchester United to play right now. 

David Moyes' side have been every bit of the joke that detractors of United had prayed they would be this season. 

In the league, they have suffered embarrassment and ignominy on what feels like a weekly basis.

And the press and media chat not about if Moyes will be sacked, but when.

The post-Alex Ferguson years appear to be a cold and hard corpse compared to the effervescent life that ran through the club's veins last season and earlier.

But football has clever ways of playing tricks on you.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 18: David Moyes of Manchester United speaks to the media during a press conference at Old Trafford on March 18, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The tie against Munich is the perfect opportunity for Moyes and his players to be something they have not been this year: winners.

It is an opportunity to exorcise the demons and ghouls that have haunted this United side for over six months.

This is the roll of the dice that the gambler waits his whole life for. 

Get this right, and all bets are off:

There would be no sacking for Moyes. There would be no players sulking and leaving in the summer because Champions League football has temporarily left the building. There would be no problem attracting talent to Manchester because you would be "the biggest club in the world and had dumped Bayern Munich out of Europe."

Moyes knows that this is a golden opportunity, and he will already be thinking on this quarter-finals draw day about just how he will beat the kings of the Bundesliga.


Merry Christmas, Bavaria

How Manchester United can beat Bayern Munich
How Manchester United can beat Bayern MunichCredit: EPL Index Tactics Manager

Firstly, it is always worth pointing out that if David Moyes plays anything resembling a traditional 4-4-2 in this game, then United may as well not even bother turning up for the party because the game will be over in the blink of an eye.

Tactics are always a subjective topic among fans. Some prefer battle-hardy thunderous tactics, where you fight fire with fire and leave it all on the football pitch.

That is something United will have to do against Bayern in part, but they are going to have to use their brains as much as their bodies.

Bayern's preferred formation has been a 4-1-4-1 this season, per WhoScored, and it is easy to see why:

Bayern Munich's average formation in the Champions League
Bayern Munich's average formation in the Champions LeagueCredit:

The system allows Bayern's attack-minded midfielders the freedom and run of the game. If United try and sit with two banks of four, one of two things will happen:

United will either lose the match or United will lose the match by a cricket score. 

The Red Devils simply do not have the resistance or individual quality to stop the talent pool at Bayern's disposal.

The film of Arjen Robben running at Patrice Evra would become one of the hammer horror movies of the summer. It would be a bloodbath.

United have to find a way to protect and counter-attack and stick with this tactic both at home and away. It is no good sacrificing territory and possession for the chance of a goal or two if you allow this Bavarian machine space in your last third.

Moyes should employ a Christmas tree formation.

A midfield three of Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs and Marouane Fellaini would sit deep, blocking the channels and aiding the defence when faced with a runner.

MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 13:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid is put under pressure by Jonny Evans and Phil Jones of Manchester United  during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Real Madrid and Manchester United at Estadio Sant
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Alternatively, United could play Phil Jones in midfield, as they did successfully against Real Madrid last season, but after paying the best part of £30 million for Fellaini, he should really be used in some capacity.

United have a choice of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans at centre-back, so playing Jones slightly more advanced is not unthinkable. 

The two most important players in this system would be Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck. 

Both would have to work their socks off to come deeper and face up the Bayern midfield when the Germans are in possession, and both will have to explosively burst forward to support the striker on the break when the opportunity presents itself.

And the opportunity will present itself. 

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 18:  Wayne Rooney  (R) of Manchester United celebrates with teammate Danny Welbeck #19 after scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Manchester United at Loftus Road on D
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

This formation allows United the chance to go from a 4-5-1 without the ball to a 4-3-3 with it. 

United know they will have less of the ball than Bayern during both games, so there is no need to force the issue.

If you have 30 percent possession in the match, make sure that 30 percent hurts the opposition to the maximum. 

As with Jones in midfield, there are options for United at the top of the Christmas tree. 

If Robin van Perise is injured and cannot start, Rooney can play the role of striker with Antonio Valencia coming in. 

The most important aspect of the two players in front of the midfield is the quality of their work-rate and their ability to break with pace.

It is not a formation that would get the best of Adnan Januzaj, and he will have to be saved to be used as a possible plan B. 


A Test of Moyes' Courage

Jon Super/Associated Press

It would be very easy for Moyes to approach this game with the kind of tactics he has employed this season, but to do so will only see him move one step closer to the door at Old Trafford.

Moyes is no shrinking violet and he is always very forthright, but now he has to show that in his team selection and in the manner of how he sets them up.

Ryan Giggs showed he has the ability to turn defence into attack against Olympiakos, and it will be his intelligence that is needed once again against Bayern. 

Of course, Giggs is not naturally defensive, but over the years his game has adjusted to a more conservative one, and it will be his job to keep an eye on the space vacated by Evra going forward. 

This job could also be done by Tom Cleverley, but he simply does not have Giggs' passing range and experience. 

Moyes will need to be brave against Munich, and if he can pull this off, his stock will rise to an all-time high.

The common football fan does not think that Moyes has the ability to manage against the best in the Premier League, so to out-think Pep Guardiola and Bayern will score more than a few points in the popularity polls. 

This is David Moyes' biggest test as a manager and could be the making of the man.

There is nothing like the taste of victory to motivate and inspire, and the Scotsman would then be able to look towards the summer with hope and renewed vigour. 

Bayern Munich is David Moyes' "get out of jail free" card. But if he plays it correctly, he could be on his way to even greater successes.  


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