Film Focus: Manchester United's Parked Bus Is Beaten by Bayern Munich

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Film Focus: Manchester United's Parked Bus Is Beaten by Bayern Munich
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

In this Film Focus, we look back at Manchester United's defeat to Bayern Munich, and how the wheels came off David Moyes' parked bus.

Having managed a creditable draw against Bayern in the first leg at Old Trafford, United went into the game knowing they needed to score but also clearly concerned with containing Bayern's attacking threat.

There was some reasonably sophisticated tactical work attempted, with a defensive 4-4-2 transitioning to a reasonably fluid 4-2-3-1 on those rare occasions when United were in possession.

Ultimately, their over-reliance on deep defending proved United's undoing, as their defenders were unable to maintain their concentration for the full course of the two legs, understandable given the near-impossibility of the task they were set.

 

Defensive Shape

United based their defensive shape largely around a conventional 4-4-2, seen in action here around the 13-minute mark. Although this shows a very delineated formation, there were a number of variations in the shape and structure of United's defending.

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Here we see United running back into defensive position after conceding possession to Bayern (not an unusual event over the course of the game). At this point, Michael Carrick is the deepest of United's midfielders, with Darren Fletcher running back to join him and Shinji Kagawa and Antonio Valencia tucking in to provide support. Danny Welbeck is out of the picture, ahead of the play, having made a run when United were in possession.

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The definitive feature of United's defending was its depth. In this still from within the first minute of the game, United have seven players in the box and another just outside.

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Time and again, as it had been in the first leg, possession was conceded to Bayern and United defended their box, the metaphorical parking of the bus in full effect. Here, 22 minutes into the game, United have eight players in the box and one just outside. It is important to note that neither of these images represent defending in the wake of set pieces, rather they are United's tactical response to Bayern having possession in open play.

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When United were caught in possession and unable to transition quickly back into a compact defensive unit, Bayern had chances. In a foreshadowing of his unfortunate involvement in Munich's goals, Patrice Evra leaves United badly exposed by getting caught in two minds attempting to counter-attack.

Evra is drawn into an attempt to close down Arjen Robben, who slips a through ball past him.

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Moments later, Philipp Lahm is clear in the space vacated by Evra, and his cross creates an excellent goalscoring opportunity for Munich.

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United were lucky on this occasion. That luck would not hold.

 

Attacking Shape

There were some positives to United's attacking performance. But for very sub-par work in the box from a wasteful and listless Wayne Rooney, it may have borne more fruit.

On the subject of Rooney, Moyes may have felt he "would be mad" to exclude Rooney (h/t the Mirror), but the striker's contribution bordered on the abysmal. Moyes' decision to substitute Javier Hernandez for Darren Fletcher rather than for Rooney seemed misguided at best, given how dramatically ineffective the England international had been, per Squawka.

Moyes' attacking plan was clearly to rotate Welbeck, Rooney and Kagawa, with Valencia sticking more rigidly to the right flank. Here are three images, all of United in attack, showing the triumvirate alternating their roles.

The first shows Welbeck and Kagawa central, with Rooney on the left flank.

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The next shows Welbeck wider even than Valencia on the right, with Rooney through the middle and Kagawa on the left.

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The third shows Kagawa in possession on the right flank in the second half, with Rooney central and Welbeck out of shot to the left. It is interesting to note that Valencia has stayed back to cover in the event of a counter-attack.

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The Goals

United's fluidity in attack was key to Evra's wonder goal. Bayern's defenders are preoccupied by dealing with Welbeck and mindful of the incoming presence of Rooney and Kagawa, as seen here.

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The second ball breaks into the space in front of Bayern's defenders, who have temporarily taken a leaf out of United's book and dropped very deep. There is too much ground to make up, and Evra capitalised in spectacular fashion.

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The elation was remarkably short-lived. From the restart, Bayern began an attack down United's right.

Patrice Evra was immediately called into defensive action and was unable to stick to his task. Here Evra is marking Mario Mandzukic, the goalscorer, who is beginning his dart towards the oncoming ball.

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The movement is too quick and too decisive for Evra to deal with. A split second later, Mandzukic finds himself in space and the Frenchman's elation disappears, and he is left sprawled on the ground as Bayern celebrate.

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Bayern's second, perhaps decisive goal, unfortunately, came from another Evra error, this time allowing Robben far too much room. Robben takes advantage of his free reign to find Thomas Muller.

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David Moyes' face told a story at that point. Here was a man whose plan had appeared to be working, seeing that plan unravel.

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When Gary Neville said that Chelsea's Champions League win in 2012 was "written in the stars," per the Daily Mail, there was a reason he used the language of destiny. To engineer safe passage through a two-legged Champions League tie by "parking the bus," you need tremendous good fortune.

You need your defenders to be able to perform at their concentrated best for 180 minutes.

You need your strikers to take their chances and minimise their mistakes.

And you need this in a more concentrated way, because your strikers will have fewer chances than normal to score and your defenders will have more chances than normal to make a mistake.

Moyes parked his bus at Old Trafford. It largely did the job. The trip to Munich proved a road-trip too far. When United will get to perform on the biggest European stage again is a matter for speculation. The fear is, it may be some time. 

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