When the teams walked onto the pitch today at Old Trafford, few could have predicted the game that was to unfold.
Alex Ferguson once again lied to the world (I personally was not surprised), and started Wayne Rooney despite his injury in the first leg of the Champions League tie against Bayern Munich.
This gave the youthful United line up a fearsome look in attack, and after going two goals to the good after just seven minutes, Sir Alex looked to have out smarted his counterpart Louis Van Gaal. However, despite great wing play from Nani and Valencia, after the 30th minute, the middle of the park belonged to the strong and increasingly composed Bayern duo of Schweinsteiger and Van Bommel.
Bayern's midfield dynamism confused United defensively, and despite Nani adding a third with five minutes to spare in the first half, the game looked to be a less one sided affair for the remaining minutes.
Ivica Olic was to prove that in convincing style with a fantastic short angle finish beneath Van Der Sar just moments after Nani's goal, and at half the game was 3-1, with United in trouble of loosing the ascendancy.
Within five minutes after the restart Raphael had been sent off, and United was firmly forced onto the back foot. Bayern thus applied constant pressure to the Manchester United defense, and when Arjen Robben scored a low, left footed volley from a Frank Ribery corner kick in the 74th minute (A true contender for goal of the season), Bayern's second goal and subsequent away goal advantage was long overdue.
While the game ended with little other action, the performance from the Bavarians give light on three key things to expect from them in their semi-final clash with Lyon in two weeks time.
A Stranglehold on Possession
Despite being outplayed in the first 45 minutes, Bayern still held 47% possession, and by the time the game ended, Bayern enjoyed 61% possession, showing their dominance over the Manchester midfield.
While this was against 10 men for almost the entire second half, it was not the first time this season Bayern have dominated the play in Europe, and up against a guile-less Lyon midfield, Schweinsteiger and Pranjic (as Van Bommel picked up a yellow card suspension) will look to do more of the same.
This allows Bayern to dictate the tempo and intensity of both legs of the tie, and with their superior technical ability, will allow them to apply constant pressure on the Lyon back line.
German teams are long renowned for their self belief and ability to fight their way back into matches, and after today's match, this years Bayern squad undoubtedly has that characteristic as well.
Two consecutive 3-2 away defeats in Europe have shown that while Bayern might not be at their best away from the Allianz Arena, they do possess the self belief to fight for results, even when they look unlikely.
This attitude means that a confident (and hopefully poised) Bayern will walk onto the pitch against Lyon in two weeks time, and as we saw first hand today, a confident Bayern is more likely to score than not.
Third and finally....
Moments of magic
Arjen Robben's goal today was simply stunning, a true piece of class those who watched the game live will never forget. It made his game winner against Fiorentina, a true world class goal in its own right, look like something from the school yard.
It is moments like these, and the ones produced by Ribery (who himself had a stunning volley saved from Van Der Sar) that are sure to light up the Champions League Semi-Final. Robben has continued his fine run of form and with Ribery regaining his, Bayern possess two of the worlds most talented players, who can change a game on a moments notice.
This extra bit of class is not only what separates them on paper from their French opponents, as seen today, it is also more than capable of separating them on the field. Look to Robben and Ribery to provide moments of genius in both Munich and Lyon, as Bayern are now clear favorites to make their first Champions League Final appearance since winning the competition in 2001.