Every so often you come across one-sided matches such as these, it’s just that they aren’t usually in a Champions League quarter-final.
Despite the morale-boosting win over Aston Villa at the weekend – although those morale levels have been in need of defibrillation more than once this season – and in spite of the admirable defiance shown by David Moyes in the face of a man several hundred feet above him with a banner flapping away behind his plane, Manchester United don’t have a prayer here.
After Jose Mourinho paid Moyes and United far too much respect during a goalless draw in just the second week of the season – and how the Portuguese might come to regret those two lost points come the end of it – the 1-0 win over Arsenal in November has remained the only occasion when an impressive, organised team has failed to take something from Old Trafford in the Premier League this season. So what will the European champions do?
This quarter-final draw was a bitter one to take for Moyes, who was doubtless looking for a quiet, shambles-free end to a troubled first season at United from which he could repair, rebuild and hope that people forget about the ignominy that went before.
He’ll approach the game with the best of intentions and with the hope of causing a shock (and unfancied English clubs do have a habit of producing those in this competition), but deep down he must know that his team simply aren’t good enough to challenge Pep Guardiola’s men. Given his own limitations and shorn of two of his experienced performers in the injured Robin van Persie and banned Patrice Evra, he’s entering a swordfight clutching a teaspoon.
Guardiola, meanwhile will go into it with the confidence befitting a man who has overseen victories in all of Bayern’s last 16 competitive away matches, and seen them remain unbeaten in 23 games on the road.
They weren’t without their troubles in the victory over Arsenal in the last round, but there remained a calmness and clinical nature to their play which threatens to overrun United here. In the past month both Liverpool and Manchester City will have provided Guardiola with a blueprint on how to approach this game, and he is unlikely to have ignored it.
Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Javi Martinez, David Alaba, Arjen Robben, Thomas Muller and Mario Mandzukic made up a pretty impressive substitute’s bench in a shadow side’s draw at home to Hoffenheim at the weekend, and although Guardiola has lost Thiago Alcantara through injury he can replace him with Xherdan Shaqiri. We haven’t even mentioned the likes of Franck Ribery, Mario Gotze and Bastian Schweinsteiger yet.
First leg betting can sometimes leave you looking foolish, but there is nothing in this contest to suggest that Bayern -1 isn’t a banker at 2.06.
The visitors to win to nil should also garner some attention at 2.50, whilst the braver could also go for Bayern to win both halves at 3.45.
He often gets overlooked and will be replaced by Robert Lewandowski next season, but for now Mandzukic remains the spearhead of this Bayern side.
The Croatian looks good for the first goal at 4.70 and 2.10 any time, and whilst checking the team news is a must given the vast resources available to Guardiola, if Shaqiri starts then he is a good shout for an any time goal at 3.25, whilst the same goes for penalty taker Alaba at 3.80.
United’s best hope for a goal once again lies with Wayne Rooney, and he’s 15.00 to follow on from his opener at the weekend and score with his head.
Bayern (-1 goal) to win – 2.06
Bayern to win both halves – 3.45