In anticipation of the massive Champions League ties in the Quarter-Final stage, we’ve done something special for our build-up. Eight teams, eight experts, each giving us their insight into their team’s chances, tactical set ups and bold predictions.
This “Wayne Barton (@yolkie_ on Twitter) is a Manchester United author and the football columnist for SetantaSports.com. He wrote the autobiography of Brian Greenhoff in 2012 and his latest book, “Fergie’s Fledglings” is now available signed by 5 players (International shipping available). He is also the founder of Talk of the Devils.
Firstly, what are your thoughts on United’s Champions League campaign so far?
Aside from the away game at Olympiakos, it’s been a good run for the club and David Moyes. Ironically enough – and it seems a long time ago now – at the start of the season it was said that Moyes would be okay in the League but his inexperience might cost us in Europe. Both games against Leverkusen were enjoyable while we’d hoped that the home game in the last round might have seen us turn a corner under the new manager – regardless of how poorly we’ll finish in the League, I’d say a quarter final appearance in his first season in the competition isn’t a bad achievement for Moyes.
Many fans were considering Manchester United to be the easiest draw for the quarter final stage. The criticism seemed to have been justified but they turned up against Bayern? Write United off at your own peril still applies in the Champions League?
Yes, after we were drawn against Bayern bookmakers had us at 33/1 to win the competition. And then on the night of the first leg we were 6/1 in some places just to win on the night – I’ve never in my lifetime seen United such underdogs at Old Trafford. In the Champions League we’ve tended to use a lot of the older combinations that have served us well in the past, and in particular we’ve used Ryan Giggs. He’s played just 11 times in the League but 7 in Europe – he didn’t play in Greece. Draw your own conclusions about whether or not that had an influence on our performance but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the more often we’ve used Giggs, the more we’ve looked like our old self… Let’s just say ‘write us off at your peril’ is something I feel a lot more comfortable saying if Giggs is playing than if he isn’t.
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Manchester United set up well defensively against Bayern Munich but doing that again for another 90 minutes while still needing a goal may be a risk. How exactly should Moyes set up his men?
I understand that our performance was labelled as defensive – I watched the game and I saw what happened, I saw the possession statistics afterwards and they told the story. I go back to the attitude of Giggs in the pre-match press conference essentially saying we shouldn’t lay down and accept we’re not favourites. Now go back and observe the Arsenal game with them at the Emirates – that was an exercise in patience from the Germans where there was a clear gulf in class. There’s a universal acceptance that United aren’t as good as Bayern and I’m not going to sit here and tell you we are, but we had the best chances of the game at Old Trafford and if we set up the same way in Germany we’ve got half a chance.
It’s likely that with Schweinsteiger and Matrinez out, Bayern’s new midfield will be a lot more dynamic with Gotze, Kroos, etc. United have struggled against a quick and fast midfield shown in the games against City and Liverpool. How do you think United will cope with this?
Obviously that’s a big concern, but I thought our shape was spot on at home – we condensed the middle and didn’t give away much in the space that those kind of midfielders will look to exploit. Rightly or wrongly we set out to win the games against Liverpool and City, concentrating on what we thought were our strengths rather than countering those of the opponent. There’s no shame in doing that and as we learned against Bayern a week ago, our players have the discipline to cope. You mention Martinez and his absence might be crucial for us – another defender, Dante for example if he comes in, might find it more difficult against the likes of Welbeck or Rooney.
What would your starting XI for the second leg against Bayern Munich be?
The million dollar question! I don’t know is the honest answer. On Saturday we played Valencia and Fletcher and both of those would have been in my thoughts, while there is talk that Rooney won’t be fit. I’m going to assume he is when naming a team.
De Gea – Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra – Jones, Carrick, Giggs – Valencia, Rooney, Welbeck
Essentially, a 4-5-1 or a 4-3-2-1 if you like. I fancy that team to score.
We attempt to track the progress of the best young players as much as time allows under our #TalentRadar and Scout Report features. Which youngster coming through from PSG are you most excited about?
It’s a tough one as the brutal truth is we don’t have many coming through who you think are ready. Andreas Pereira excites me and if he gets a chance he could do well but the problem is we’re already burst with talent in that kind of area. James Wilson is an obvious choice after his inclusion on the bench at Newcastle and one thing I’ll say is that he has the work ethic to get there – when he first went up the age level to play in the U18’s he was playing in a team that didn’t have an obvious frontman – he made himself into a lethal finisher and has shown that he has a goalscoring instinct that is difficult to teach. It’s just so difficult for a kid to come through as a striker at United… well, it was under Sir Alex. Mark Robins had some success while Danny Welbeck is the obvious name that suggests I’m wrong though I would say that Danny’s versatility and, crucially, everything he does bar being a clinical striker is what earns him a place. So either Pereira or Wilson would be my answer but I still have my doubts that they will make it even if I hope they do.
Finally, if you were to make a prediction for the tie, who do you see going through? Any particular scoreline for the second leg?
I can’t make a prediction, I never do – but I expected us to get a proper going over in the first leg and I was delighted to be wrong. I go intoWednesday with genuine hopes that we will qualify and that’s more than I thought I’d be saying when the draw was made. Whether those hopes are based on the United I’m used to watching rather than the one we’ve seen under David Moyes is something different completely.
What do you think? Can Manchester United get past Bayern Munich? Can they actually somehow win the Champions League? Let us know, drop a comment below.
For the rest of our interviews from this series and all our other interviews, head this way.