Belfast Telegraph

Bayern Munich have punch to deal knockout blow to Manchester United

By Steven Beacom

David Moyes versus Pep Guardiola. Sounds like an almighty mismatch, doesn't it?

Then again, that's what we thought when James 'Buster' Douglas took on an undefeated Mike Tyson all those years ago... and look what happened then!

If we are being kind, Manchester United and Moyes have a puncher's chance.

The problem is this season their punch has been weaker than an EastEnders plot line.

And Guardiola's Bayern Munich will enter tonight's Champions League quarter-final clash in much better shape than Tyson when he was knocked out by Douglas in 1990.

In a season littered with them, this tie could be the biggest embarrassment of all at Old Trafford.

In recent weeks Liverpool and Manchester City have humbled United on their home patch with 3-0 victories in the league.

Bayern are a superior side to both and having won the Bundesliga last week are focusing all their energies on retaining the European Cup, won so impressively last season.

Jupp Heynckes was in charge when the German giants claimed the trophy at Wembley. Since then Guardiola has arrived and made Bayern more brilliant, more blistering and more breathtaking.

Moyes has only served to make United more brittle.

Munich, never short of self belief, will be certain they can secure their semi-final place tonight with the return leg in the Allianz Arena next week nothing more than a formality.

Don't be fooled by United beating Aston Villa 4-1 on Saturday at Old Trafford. The defence was still as shaky as ever under Moyes and will face the stiffest of tests this evening.

Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Mario Mandzukic could have a field day. Thomas Muller, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos will fancy shining too and then there's influential skipper Philipp Lahm, likely to have the freedom of Manchester, in his roving role.

United must ensure that Bayern, sure to dominate possession, don't score early, otherwise those games against Liverpool and City will look like narrow defeats.

The atmosphere inside Old Trafford will be lively and loud and the United players have to feed off that noise and for the first time this season in a truly big game against big time opposition be inspired.

Moyes also has to be clever and select a starting XI that won't wilt under pressure and stay organised as Bayern keep the ball for minutes on end probing for openings. That means not picking the past his sell by date Rio Ferdinand, Tom Cleverley or Ashley Young.

Captain Nemanja Vidic, in his final season at United, has to lead by example from the back with one of his 'thou shalt not pass' performances from years ago. In midfield it's up to Michael Carrick to provide a platform to attack and up front, with Robin van Persie injured, it's all about Wayne Rooney.

This is a huge challenge for Moyes and his boys. Given the season they've had a home win would be astonishing. A more realistic ambition would be to keep the tie alive until next week. I can't help feeling though that Bayern have all the qualities to provide a knockout blow tonight.

Belfast Telegraph

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