That said, Bayern will still be heavy favorites to win the second leg clash at the Allianz Arena on April 9 in their quest to advance to the final four. Yet United proved that despite all their struggles in the Premier League this campaign, they can still hang tight with Europe’s best.
Speaking to ITV after the game, Moyes was pleased with the teams display and believes it gives his side a big chance of progressing past Bayern.
“The players played really well so we’re delighted but just a bit disappointed that we conceded in the end,” Moyes said. “There was a real determination to make sure we did well, the players realized we were playing a really good side tonight. We know we’ve got to score a goal in the second leg. We have to do something about it. But we know we’ve given ourselves a great opportunity.”
That great opportunity Moyes speaks of, could’ve been even better had a small defensive lapse been eradicated. On Bastian Schweinsteiger ‘s equalizer the German wandered into the penalty box unmarked and unleashed an unstoppable shot into the top corner. Plus Danny Welbeck had a legitimate looking effort chalked off and then missed a glorious chance just before the break. But if you’d offered United a 1-1 draw before kick off, they’d have ripped your hand off.
United’s captain and goalscorer Nemanja Vidic epitomized their staunch defensive display as the Serbian cleared ball time time again, while marshaling the back line wonderfully. Speaking about the draw, he declared himself happy with the result but believes the second leg can be won with United’s pacey counter-attacking play that unnerved Bayern.
“It was a tough game, at 1-0 it was a good result. We just felt we were solid, but we made one mistake and we were punished,” Vidic said. “In the Champions League we have played quite well this season, we have defended well, played as a team and our biggest threat is on the counter attack. It will be the same game [in the second leg], they will have a lot of possession at their ground. We have to keep our shape and with our players up front with their pace, we can hurt them.”
The Red Devils exceeded everyone’s expectations with their display and outcome in the first leg against Bayern. Can they do it again in the return match and prove all the doubters wrong?
For a lot of us, that meant delving into statistics and seeing what matched the eye test. Many started Googling the name “N'Golo Kante“, the dynamic disruptor who’d move to Chelsea in August.
He’s a household name now, with some personalities even arguing that he should buck the trend of Ballon d’Or nominees including only major statistic producers (There was a time when names like Fabio Cannavaro and Matthias Sammer claimed the honor, you know).
For our purposes, we’ll use a pair of advanced stats sites and the good ol’ eye test. (Of the sites we’re using, Squawka seems to skew toward high attack scores, while WhoScored tilts a bit toward the back, so life is good if a player hits both sites’ Top 50).
Before getting into our team — we promise no 10-picture, click-to-reveal-next stuff — some stats that stood out.
— Three players have had outstanding “short” seasons for different reasons.
Leicester City’s Wilfried Ndidi took a short spell to adjust to the Premier League after arriving in January, but has been the Foxes’ most influential player in their recent turnaround).
Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake essentially was the Cherries’ first-half success before heading back to Chelsea where Antonio Conte won’t move him ahead of Marcos Alonso or Victor Moses (and that’s actually understandable as you’ll see below).
Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas just doesn’t feature a ton for Conte, but in limited time his per-90 stats on Squawka trail only Eden Hazard and Alexis Sanchez.
Ander Herrera (Manchester United, 7.44, 36.64) – Long-heralded at Athletic Bilbao, Herrera is finally showing what made him so sought. One odd stat that may be explained by his willingness to run to any situation: he’s very high in average times dribbled past.
Idrissa Gana Gueye (Everton, 7.34, 20.57) – The best player in Aston Villa’s awful 2015-16, he’s been arguably as effective as N’Golo Kante. Seriously.
Matt Phillips (West Bromwich Albion) – Once the top player on a relegated QPR, Phillips is fifth in the Premier League in assists despite missing the last four matches with injury.
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur, 7.41, 31.89) – Second in the PL in key passes, he doesn’t get the plaudits of English teammates Dele Alli and Harry Kane. The relationships are very symbiotic.
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace, 7.44) – On an under-achieving team, Zaha’s statistics are wild. He’s the most-fouled player in the league, and attempts/completes the most dribbles in the PL. He gives the ball away a lot, too, but that happens when you’re the focal point of everything your team does in the attacking third.
Alex Iwobi (Arsenal, 30.54) – The Nigerian turns 21 in May, and has four goals and seven assists across all competitions.
“[Ibrahimovic] is a genius, he’s very intense because he wants to win everything, even football-tennis,” Herrera said to Radio MARCA.
“He assumes this role of doing or saying what he likes in front of the media because he does not care, he can say that he’ll score 30 goals or is the best because he can afford to.”
There’s certainly something to stature when it comes to saying what you feel (though on the other hand, being egotistical is rarely controversial. It’s not like Ibrahimovic is often railing on controversial soccer or social issues).
We’re sure there are plenty of players across all sports, casual and professional, who don’t understand hyper-competitive teammates, but we love a guy who doesn’t turn it down when it comes to on-the-field activities. Hopefully Ibrahimovic is the Jaromir Jagr of soccer.