Manchester United's European hopes remain alive going into the away leg against Bayern Munich after a gutsy 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.
Nemanja Vidic raised hopes of an unlikely victory with a 58th minute header, but that lead only lasted nine minutes, with Bastian Schweinsteiger sweeping home on the half-volley.The German then harshly saw red in the final minute of normal time, receiving a second yellow for a challenge that Wayne Rooney made more than a meal of. He will join Javi Martinez on the sidelines for the return leg, after the makeshift defender saw a yellow card that triggers suspension.
The first half played out how many predicted it would, minus the expected boat-load of Bayern Munich goals. The away side, like many at the home of the soon-to-be-unseated Premier League champions, enjoyed the bulk of possession, with their share reaching an eye-watering 79% for the first half. Despite that, David De Gea only had one strenuous save to make, with a fine diving stop from an Arjen Robben effort keeping the score at 0-0.
As the half wore on, while Bayern remained camped in the United half, the home side were occasionally dangerous on the counter attack. Danny Welbeck had already seen a third-minute goal disallowed, somewhat harshly for a high foot, but he had another chance to open the scoring. Clean through on goal, he tried an optimistic chip over Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer when he should have merely slotted it past the on-rushing keeper.
In reality, the away side never got out of second gear, happy to patiently probe at a timid United side, but beleagured boss David Moyes smelt blood, sending Shinji Kagawa on for the aged Ryan Giggs. While Kagawa had little influence on the game as a whole, there was a greater intensity about the home side, and Vidic's guided header from a Rooney corner was on balance deserved.
Any side that is already Bundesliga champions for the season, not to mention the Champions League holders, always has something in their locker however, and Schweinsteiger's equaliser from Mario Mandzukic's knock-down should not be begrudged. Man United would have been lucky to see out the game without conceding, but Moyes will be thrilled to have avoided defeat in this toughest of European tests.
For United to operate on the counter was entirely understandable, and some would argue that this was Moyes in his comfort zone, as the home side were expected to play in their shell, but there can be few complaints with the overall display.
Bayern Munich undoubtedly had complaints about the refereeing display, as they felt Antonio Valencia should have been sent off for an admittedly dicey challenge. The referee Carlos Velasco Carballo saw it as a 50/50 coming-together, but for Schweinsteiger to then be sent off for a challenge that had the strong whiff of a Rooney dive would have stuck in the German craws a bit.
Man United must play with more adventure in Munich, as the away goal they conceded will prove their un-doing if things remain the same, but the more resigned and pessimistic among the Old Trafford support will be grateful to still be competitive. This Man United season isn't over just yet.