The Serb delivered a fine performance to keep the Old Trafford outfit in the tie against Pep Guardiola’s side, with David Moyes’ men holding out for a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford
By Jonathan Birchall at Old Trafford
The improbable dream lives on at Old Trafford. Manchester United simply will not leave Europe without a fight.
These underdogs were dogged against Bayern Munich. David Moyes’ side faced the best team on the continent and will live to fight another day in Bavaria next Wednesday.
A 1-1 draw at home at this stage of the Champions League would, in normal circumstances, be disappointing. But Pep Guardiola’s side are anything but ordinary, and after spells of dominance that were at times nothing short of spectacular, the German champions will know they still hold the upper hand, but it won’t come easy.
For Moyes, who has at times let his heart rule his head during his time at Old Trafford, there is much to be taken from this draw built on a foundation as formidable as the roar from the Stretford End that greeted the sides earlier this evening. He called for heroes and they arrived. The Scot had a plan and it worked, so nearly to perfection.
That United took the lead through Nemanja Vidic was fitting. The Serb, who has kept the captain’s armband at Old Trafford despite already committing his future to Inter come the end of the season, was sensational.
Having been peppered with balls from the Bayern midfielders, namely Franck Ribery on the left flank, the United skipper met it all. For over an hour they simply would not pass. Bastian Schweinsteiger’s equaliser, a stunning half volley from Mario Mandzukic’s knock down, was simply this German force of nature taking its course.
United will, and arguably have, missed this Vidic. The legs are a little creakier these days but there remains a phenomenal defender. Playing alongside Rio Ferdinand, the man with whom he has spent so many of these nights before, he rolled back the years. Few come close when he is this good.
But there were other, more unlikely heroes.
Alexander Buttner, signed from Vitesse last summer as a virtual unknown who has largely remained such since arriving at the Theatre of Dreams, spoke of looking forward to coming up against his compatriot Arjen Robben before the match. United fans may not have shared his optimism then but will look at him a little differently now. He held his own. They all held their own.
The word brave has been too liberally pinned to Premier League sides who, when it comes to it, have failed in this competition this season. United must be at their best to ensure they do not become another.
What remains for United is hope. Javi Martinez will miss the second leg after picking up a yellow card for a cynical late foul on Javier Hernandez. Schweinsteiger too, will watch from the Allianz Arena stands after being sent off after receiving two bookings. Every little helps against this Bayern side, after all.
United will, like they did at Old Trafford this evening, take what they can get.
As for Vidic, this may well prove to be his final Champions League bow at the Theatre of Dreams, but he looks hell bent on ensuring it isn’t. He won’t stop or give in.
United improbably fight on.