Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Manchester United-Bayern Munich: Player Ratings

United hosted Bayern Munich in an epic Champions League quarter-final return leg Wednesday evening.
The home side dominated possession from the start and opened up the scoring early when Gibson was afforded great space and nimbly curled from range past a gaping Butt.

United struck again when Valencia patiently proffered Nani up in the six-yard box; the Portuguese trickster back-flicked past the despairing goalkeeper for a 2-0 advantage inside ten minutes.

The dream continued when Nani, for once, used precision over power from range after Valencia crossed low through Bayern's box at the 41st minute.

Olic, though, pegged a massive away-goal back for Bayern just before the break to setup a tense second frame as United led 3-1 (4-3 on aggregate).

Rafael's mind went astray in the 55th minute, forcing his body off the pitch for good after earning his second yellow for no cosmic reason. Bayern therefore dominated the second half.

In the 75th minute, Arjen Robben volleyed brilliantly direct from a corner, after Carrick had released Bayern carelessly. Robben's connection was perfect, arrowing into the far, bottom corner.

Bayern held on late against slight pressure from United's ten men, and, after one of the best games of the season, the Germans agonizingly leave Manchester United behind, winning on away goals 4-4 and advancing to the semi-finals to face Lyon.

Van der Sar (7): Perhaps could have done better for Bayern's first goal when he was off-balance, allowing Oljic to score from an unforgivable angle. Otherwise he was mature and made some legitimate saves from Robben and Ribery to keep United in it until the death.

Rafael (4): His rambunctious tendency brought life into his side's winning first half display. Should have scored or assisted United's third but his ball control was pitiful breaking through clean on goal. Otherwise he tackled with alacrity and ran around the pitch like a madman. However, his naivete caught up to him early in the second half when he made a deplorable transgression, sent off after a needless second booking. His knack for immaturity is sometimes cute, but in a game of this historic importance, such behavior is unforgivable for any professional.

Ferdinand (6.5): Looked better and more assured today than in recent shaky performances. Bayern's forwards aren't the best in the world, but Rio left the most glaring mistakes to other players today. Out of position, perhaps, for Bayern's first.

Vidic (8.5): Inspired his side before and during the match. Faultless and dominant today in a losing effort. There is no reason to believe United will sell him in the summer.

Evra (7.5): Forward and back excellently. His cardio and athleticism are second to none.

Nani (8): Arguably the best game of his United career, eclipsing his match against Arsenal in January. Nani looked more like Ronaldo and less like himself throughout, scoring two fine goals in a huge match for the club.

Fletcher (8): Each match the Scotsman leaves everything on the pitch and can assume no blame for United's tragic departure from Europe.

Carrick (3): Out-muscled for Bayern's first and throughout, Carrick was shit again. Sure, he can pass the ball sideways under no pressure. Under little tonite, he turned the ball over for no reason, allowing Bayern to earn the corner that led to Robben's masterclass strike. He was outmuscled comically for Bayern's opener. Advantage: Team without Carrick. He has no base. He prances like a doe. If United buy in the summer, it's an attacking central midfielder they need before a forward or goalkeeper. Sneidjer would have been ideal last year; perhaps Gourcuff is available this summer, along with Blanc?

Gibson (7): Scored smartly from range, curling with finesse for United's first goal. Contributed to dominate possession in the first frame. Ineffectual in the second.

Valencia (8): The most improved player in England this season, the Ecuadorian assisted United's second and third strikes and used his speed and strength in attack and defense all game. Prefers his right foot, though, so obviously, it's a wonder he's able to get in as many crosses as he does.

Rooney (5): Miraculously recovered from a sprained ankle. Rooney didn't do much throughout, especially after taking a deliberate knock in the first half. United scored today from the outside-in without the only half-fit Englishman ever being greatly involved. Notable long-ball to setup United's second.


Butt (4): Looked less like cheeks and more like a hole in the first half. Made saves in the second.

Demichelis (6): Poor in the first half during some wonkish transactions between the Bayern backline. Didn't have much to do when United went down to ten, fortunately.

van Buyten (7): Bigger in stature and strength to his partner, the Belgian got forward to contribute and shoot and was the most effective Munich defender tonight.

Badstuber (3.5): Null.

Lahm (6.5): Enjoyed more space forward after Rafael walked slowly off. No Bayern defender had a good first half, but none either were troubled in the second.

Schweinsteiger (7): Surprisingly effective in the tackle, the German attacked with range and looked lively, particularly in the second half.

van Bommel (6.5): Got booked early which changed his approach. Still got stuck in though and passed his club sideways out of defense.

Ribery (7.5): Especially dangerous in the second half. Cracked a few shots on target from range. Good footwork and balance. Rarely turned-over.

Robben (9): It wasn't as legendary as Zidane's 2002 strike against Leverkusen, but it was of the same ilk. Masterclass stuff from a world-class player. Robben was the best player in the world for the first half of last season before losing form for Madrid. Often injured, he is outstanding when on form. Somehow defenders allow him to cut inside from the right. As long as they do, he'll score goals similar to this, but rarely as nice.

Muller (5): Enjoyed no joy as center forward today.

Olic (6.5): Bullied Carrick for Bayern's first, importantly changing the mood of the match just before the break. This seems like normal service for him. Doesn't do anything spectacular with the ball, but can end up in good spots through strength and knack.

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