Man Utd still have a Champions League chance?
Why Manchester United still have a Champions League chance
For many of the crowd heading to Old Trafford on Tuesday night, the atmosphere was one of foreboding. How could a side hit hard by injuries and suspensions, and with such a poor record against the better sides in the Premier League, hope to deal with the all-conquering European Champions, who have already won this year's Bundesliga title and appear set to go through the league season unbeaten?
Despite all that, and backed by one of the stadium's best atmospheres in years, they managed to just about withstand the onslaught of a team that monopolised the ball, breaking swiftly and creating the better chances over the course of 90 minutes. 1-1 was about right.
When Danny Welbeck missed a glorious first-half chance there were groans. When Vidic headed the first goal the Earth shook with joy. For all this year's travails, United have let to lose after leading a game. And yet, nor could they win.
True, some would blame Marouane Fellaini for not tracking Bastian Schweinsteiger's run for the equaliser, but that would detract from the clever nature of the attacking midfielder's movement: first he was the most advanced player, then he stepped back, before finally making the run and applying a finish with a technique that had to be perfect.
Fellaini certainly looked the biggest disappointment for the home side on a night when Toni Kroos did not get the full 90 minutes to showcase the talents United are allegedly lining up a £40 million summer bid for. He probably will next week, however, with Schweinsteiger suspended after his red card.
Can United still win? The smart money would say no, yet one fact stands in their favour: The dire recent record of German sides - including Bayern - at home to English teams.
This season, Bayern have already lost at home to Manchester City and drawn with Arsenal, while United beat Bayer Leverkusen 5-0 away, Chelsea defeated Schalke 3-0 and Arsenal came away from the cauldron of Dortmund's Westfalenstadion with a 1-0 win, just a fortnight after losing the return fixture in London 2-1.
Nor does the German winless run stop at six. Last year, Bayern romped to a 3-1 win away to Arsenal, yet found themselves nervously hanging on for an away goals win after losing 2-0 at home. Before that, they drew 1-1 but lost on penalties to Chelsea when their own Allianz Arena stadium hosted the 2012 Champions League final.
Given that Bayern's last three trips to England had brought victory, maybe United have good reason for optimism. After all, that gave the Bavarians a cushion to fall back on that they will not have this time. Defeat and elimination for the European champions is not likely, but it is far from the impossibility anticipated just a few days ago.
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