United Assume the Underdog Role Against Bayern to Great Effect

Nick MillerSenior Writer IINovember 6, 2016

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 01:  Shinji Kagawa of Manchester United closes down Javi Martinez of Bayern Muenchen during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match between Manchester United and FC Bayern Muenchen at Old Trafford on April 1, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

And so, Manchester United's European campaign lives on. The expected dismantling by a Bayern Munich side rightly hailed as the best side in the world did not come, and while a 1-1 first-leg draw at home is not a particularly good score for any side with any aspirations of actually going through, never mind winning the Champions League, the performance on Wednesday night was fairly encouraging.

It is perhaps difficult to take for many United fans who have grown up with success not so much expected, more presumed, but they must get used to assuming the role of the underdog, which they very much were against Bayern, and indeed very much played like it too.

Jon Super

United were not talking like underdogs before the game, with David Moyes perhaps learning the lesson of previous weeks that it doesn't do to cast yourself in such a role as Manchester United manager, while Ryan Giggs was even more bullish.

"We don't see ourselves as underdogs," he told the official United website. "We see ourselves as Manchester United playing at home in the Champions League, so we're looking forward to it."

Nevertheless, United played like underdogs on Wednesday, with Moyes' previous success in similar games while at Everton perhaps coming to the fore. United largely ceded possession to Bayern and operated on the counter-attack; not quite a park-the-bus approach but nonetheless one that was designed to minimise Bayern's attacking incisiveness and not let the tie get away from United.

Still, if the intention was to frustrate and even annoy Bayern, then it seemed to work. Pep Guardiola was involved in an exchange one might best describe as "tetchy" with the Guardian's Jamie Jackson after the game, while both Arjen Robben and Toni Kroos expressed their frustration with United's approach.

Robben, as quoted by the Guardian, said:

It was not easy, as our opponents didn't leave any gaps. We wanted to play football but they tried to stop us. The English were just playing on the counter and have played very defensively, it was almost like in handball.

But when you go a goal down you have to be pleased with a draw. 1-1 is a very good result that we can take home with us and then we just have to finish it off next week.

If United operate in a similar manner in the second leg in Munich, then they might have a chance of pulling something extraordinary off. For all the criticism Moyes has received this season (and much of it has been warranted), he got things right in the first game, and while his record in big away games is nothing like that in similar home encounters, based on Wednesday night's performance it is not out of the question that they could go through.

Moyes certainly sounds pretty confident, telling Sky Sports after the game:

I always felt that we could score a goal against them, and I'll go to Munich believing that we can score a goal.

Coming into the tie, most people had Bayern as favourites for the game and rightly so – they are European champions.

But I think this club is used to big nights in Europe and I think tonight it showed it on the field and off the field as well.

United's progression remains unlikely, but if they can manage an upset in Munich, then it might just be the result that buys Moyes another season at Old Trafford.