It may be premature to talk about any resurgence in form during a troubled season for Manchester United, but an impressive 4-1 home win against Aston Villa followed by a deserved draw with Bayern Munich in their Champions League quarter-final first leg, does offer some hope for beleaguered manager David Moyes. After some supporters decided to engage a small aircraft displaying a ‘Moyes out’ banner prior to the Villa game, it appears that the action has somewhat stimulated both players and supporters alike.
Many fans voiced their disapproval of the banner and were quite vociferous in their support of Moyes on Saturday especially after a welcome win against Aston Villa. Yet it was the manner in which the Manchester United players responded to the challenge of facing the European champions from Germany which suggests that the former Everton boss still retains the backing of the majority of the players.
Gone was the uncertainty and lack of self-belief which characterised the 3-0 home defeats by Liverpool and Manchester, and although Bayern Munich were allowed to dominate the game for lengthy periods, the players showed determination and resilience to deny their opponents any significant space around the penalty area.
Many pundits had openly suggested that Bayern would win the game in a canter, especially as they have dominated the Bundesliga as like no other team for the past two seasons. Yet, United were first to strike in the match and they may have fared even better had Danny Welbeck not squandered an earlier opportunity when facing goalkeeper Manuel Neuer in a one-on-one situation.
The Bayern equaliser by Bastian Schweinsteiger owed much to the failure of Marouane Fellaini to show much urgency when tracking back to help the defence, thus allowing the German far too much time to send a controlled shot into the Manchester net.
Openly condemning Fellaini for this lapse may be rather inappropriate as he is now slowly and perhaps belatedly offering a glimmer of the capabilities for which he was so admired by Moyes. He has endured an injury plagued baptism to his early career at Old Trafford with form and confidence evaporating in front an increasingly critical audience.
Only in recent matches has he begun to show any signs of the midfield dominance, control and heading ability which characterised his displays on Merseyside but which must now be shown on a more regular basis for his new club.
When Manchester United visit Bayern Munich next week for the return leg, the German champions will be weakened by suspensions to Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez, who may have been deployed as a midfield partnership. Although, the Germans do possess a formidable squad and will have suitable replacements, this eventuality must present Fellaini with the ideal opportunity to finally display the midfield presence expected of him by the Old Trafford faithful.
Should Fellani finally blossom in Munich and United unexpectedly secure the necessary result, the position of Moyes would be much strengthened giving belief to the idea that that aircraft banner may have served a rather different purpose than originally intended.
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