| 13.2°C Belfast

David Moyes keeps Manchester United's vultures at bay


David Moyes led Manchester United to a big result

David Moyes led Manchester United to a big result

David Moyes led Manchester United to a big result

It is an outcome that his predecessor would have spat at, but it was one that David Moyes would always have taken, because the consequences of something more serious really did not bear contemplation.

Rumours had been circulating around one of the leading broadcasters all day that a catastrophe of the proportions many feared would have seen Ryan Giggs installed as Manchester United manager this morning.

It made the day edgy and angst-ridden. A score of 2-0, 3-0 or 4-0 against United seemed to be the range of expectation and though talk of Moyes' dismissal has been indignantly batted away by those at the top of Old Trafford in the past few weeks, it was a game which asked if there is any way back under this management from the place where United find themselves.

That question remains unanswered today, though the predicted narrative was certainly scrambled.

United did acceptably well. Their defence held out in the teeth of a formidable first-half challenge.

Rio Ferdinand resembled the player he has so often been. Nemanja Vidic showed that he wants his United time to end with something significant. Alexander Buttner, the source of much black humour when the thought of Arjen Robben on the Bayern right cropped up, acquitted himself at least as well as he would have hoped.

A half-time tactical switch by Moyes worked to the extent that he could reflect on having out-thought Pep Guardiola.

It closed down the threat that Robben had caused as he zig-zagged through United. It was followed by a gutsy United goal.

We even saw an opposition player dismissed. Not so "typical Germans."

That is as far as the optimism runs, though. The last time United battened down the hatches quite like this here was for the semi-final nearly six years ago when a Paul Scholes strike put paid to the Barcelona side which Guardiola was about to take over.

The significant difference being that United had already taken a goalless draw from the Nou Camp on that occasion.

Last night may be the last Old Trafford sees of occasions like this for a time and United felt like a club living on their history, milking it for one more time.

Commentary clips from the 1999 final were the stadium soundtrack in the countdown to what could be the last great European night here for a year -- or maybe years. What happened when United and Bayern went to work was not how Giggs probably imagined seeing things out during those storied years on the Continent.

He was an isolated figure for the half of football that he lasted, barely encountering the ball in a first half-hour during which Bayern rolled into United in waves, let alone shaping the game to his design.

This is a man who is now one game behind Raul's record of 142 in the competition, so you don't need much imagination to work out how he will feel about leaving the stage at half-time in what might be his last home European game.

The Bayern team that eliminated United at this stage four years ago have certainly changed a bit, but so have United. Hard to imagine that Sir Alex Ferguson's players were 3-0 up in 41 minutes in the second leg of that tie, with a team which featured five of last night's starters.

Moyes had said that caution must be a byword and that his side were in survival mode was evident.

The technical area choreography told the story: Guardiola flapping and jumping like a guy with the lollipops on an airport runway; Moyes doing his feeding-the-ducks impression, jabbing his hand at the pitch and ushering his team forward. But not too far for forward.

Vidic's goal finally brought the kind of ignition to the stadium which that 2008 April night against Barcelona is remembered for. "United till I die," they sang.

But while Ferguson was remembering in print only this week how he would always engage in a game of "gamble and risk" in the last 15 minutes if the course of a European tie weighed against United, there was no sign of Adnan Januzaj when the lead was cancelled out after a mere eight minutes. United did not come back at Bayern again.

"I like to see a part of myself in teams," Ferguson said.

"They've mirrored me in terms of determination and attitude." Times have changed at Old Trafford.

The question remains unanswered whether there is any way back under this manager.