Jim White

A chasm in class between brilliant Bayern and unconvincing United

Jim White

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Well, they’ll have enjoyed that draw in Bavaria. Bayern Munich managed to get the one everyone left in the competition wanted. They will be taking on Manchester United in the Champions League quarter-final. Somehow you suspect it won’t be like 1999 all over again.

There could hardly be a bigger contrast between the form of the two sides. One replaced a treble-winning manager with a serial winner and have improved exponentially, leading the Bundesliga by so many points there will surely soon have to be a steward’s inquiry. While the other … well now is not the time and place to intrude on personal grief.

But let’s just say Bayern are marginal favourites to go through to the semi-final. Already Arjen Robben will be licking his lips at the thought of taking on his fellow countryman Alex Buttner, while Toni Kroos, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mario Goetze and Philipp Lahm will hardly be worrying about how on earth they will pass their way round Michael Carrick.

Chelsea, meanwhile, have a significantly less fraught – though by no means easy – tie against Paris Saint-Germain. The French side have been driven by the performances of Zlatan Ibrahimovich, who has been on titanic form this season. But you sense Jose Mourinho will have sufficient know-how to negotiate his way past Laurent Blanc’s side.

He has particular motivation. His standard schtick on arriving in a new post is to complain vehemently about his predecessor. At Chelsea, such was the antipathy in the crowd to Rafa Benitez, nobody has complained about his routine dismissal of the Spaniard’s efforts. Yet the fact remains, second rate as the one he lifted might be, at least Benitez won a European trophy with Chelsea. So did Roberto Di Matteo.

Mourinho has not even made it to a final with the club, a gap on his CV that causes him particular pain. Never mind the Premier League, this is the one he wants, the one that will be occupying his mind, that will get his competitive juices flowing. You just feel his European season is not yet over; there is surely an encounter with Madrid or Barcelona to come.

As for David Moyes, he must feel the footballing gods are set on mockery. For sure, his United have the wherewithal somewhere buried deep within them to spring one against-all-odds performance. But across two legs, Bayern just have way too much firepower. In fact if United produce the sort of limp, lacklustre, shambolic effort they did in Piraeus in their first leg against Olympiacos against Bayern, then the Germans won’t even need two games. This could be slaughter.

It might be argued that the draw has done Moyes a favour. Nobody is expecting anything. Maybe if he had drawn Dortmund (who have the unenviable nail-custard-to-the-wall task of subduing Cristiano Ronaldo and Madrid) then expectation levels would have risen to the point where only pain would ensue. At least this way no-one is expecting anything of him or his under-performing shambles of a side. At least this way he could put a positive spin on heroic failure. At least this way humiliation has a more respectable edge.

Because there is no hiding from the fact that Bayern are way, way ahead of United right now. Quite how it happened, quite how one dynasty managed to accelerate into the sunset while the other seems permanently to be engaging reverse gear is the subject for a future phd thesis. But having seen Bayern a couple of times this season, there are clues.

When the German team played Arsenal in the Allianz Arena in the previous round, a quick glance at their bench told you all you needed to know about the health of the institution. Kroos, Mueller, Pizarro: what Moyes would give for names like that in his first XI, never mind in reserve. All he has is Tom Cleverley.

What Bayern have shown over the past couple of seasons is that if you want sustained success on the pitch you have to invest. Not in worldwide savoury snack commercial partners, but in plausible talent. United’s current midfield resources are now so thin, on Wednesday night it required the cracks to be papered over by a 40-year-old. And that’s before we even start on a back four that looks a disaster waiting to happen (saved on Wednesday night by Alex Ferguson’s one unimpeachable legacy to Moyes, David De Gea).

When the replacement for the defensively frail – and suspended – left-back Patrice Evra is Buttner, then no-one would confuse the situation with strength in depth. In fact, the more you analyse the possibilities, the more you contrast the two squads the more you fear for United and Moyes as they face up to Bayern.

Frankly they are so far behind the Bavarians they could spend £100 million a year from now until Uli Hoeness is released from prison and still be a mile behind.

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