Manchester United were held to a draw by European champions Bayern Munich as they looked to gain the initiative in their Champions League quarter-final tie. The club’s European exploits have been a welcome distraction from domestic football for the fans and under fire manager David Moyes. This game - watched by Moyes’ predecessor and Old Trafford legend Sir Alex Ferguson - was the perfect example of what Moyes can still bring to the club, if given time.
Bayern’s superior quality was there for all to see with the German giants having 74% possession of the ball, and United were forced to sit back and defend for large periods. But the hope and desire that has been missing from the Red Devils’ performances this season made a comeback against Bayern and United showed small signs of prowess on the counterattack.
Danny Welbeck will feel unlucky to have seen his emphatic finish ruled out for a high foot, whilst the England striker will know that, had he struck the ball hard and low when one on one with Manuel Neuer, he may have been the hero on the night. Instead, the local lad went for an audacious lob and Neuer was able to palm the ball away.
Yet, despite that mishap, the United crowd were happy with 0-0 at half time. It had been a year since Arsenal stopped Bayern from scoring - and the Gunners were the last side to do that in their 2-0 win at the Alianz Arena.
But when Nemanja Vidic opened the scoring after 58 minutes, the United fans inside Old Trafford were suddenly dreaming of bigger and better things, with Pep Guardiola stunned and Moyes ecstatic.
Bayern, though, had other ideas and started moving through the gears. And it wasn’t long before they were rewarded as Bastian Schweinsteiger found the net following Mario Mandzukic’s knock down. Bayern then toiled as they looked for a second to take a lead back to Germany, but midfielder Schweinsteiger was sent off late on for a second bookable offence.
It was a result that - in the Fergie era - would have usually left United fans slightly disappointed with their side’s failure to win. But with Moyes having led United to a poor season by their standards, this result was met with joy and relief.
Their battling performance was one that made the fans proud, and there were some stand out displays too. Alexander Buttner, deputising for the injured Patrice Evra, was excellent all game, throwing his body on the line as part of a backline tasked with thwarting Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, as well as Toni Kroos - a reported target for United.
And despite his miss in the first half, Danny Welbeck played brilliantly, working his socks off when Bayern were in possession. He has been one of the few bright sparks this season for United, but arguably their best performance on the night came from David de Gea. The former Atletico Madrid stopper was a nervous wreck in his first season at the club but showed against Bayern just how far he has come with a commanding display and some excellent goalkeeping. Along with natural leaders Vidic and Wayne Rooney, De Gea helped provide a solid spine for United, and will be vital in the reverse leg.
But with Javi Martinez and Schweinsteiger both suspended and Thiago Alcantara injured, United will fancy their chances at a ground where both Arsenal and City have won in the last year, and a ground in which Chelsea beat Bayern to win the Champions League.
However, Bayern are in the driving seat and anything other than a home win would be a huge surprise, but a shock win for United would raise Moyes’ stock dramatically. The Scot needs something to call a success, and the Champions League could be his only hope.