According to the stats on Soccernet’s Gamecast, Bayern had 74% of possession throughout the entire match. SEVENTY FOUR. This means that they had the ball for almost three-quarters of the match, or 67 minutes worth of possession.
Read the opening paragraph again, and allow the statistic to sink in. Done?
Watching Man Utd play tonight was absolutely frustrating. Every time they regained the ball, they almost immediately lost it within seconds to Bayern. This was mostly due to the players’ insistence of playing long balls. And each time, more often than not, the long ball attempt failed, and Bayern would regain possession. The German team would then hold on to the ball for about a minute, Man Utd would successfully clear their attack, only to promptly lose the ball again upfield. Repeat multiple times, and that was a summary of Man Utd’s performance.
It doesn’t take a tactical genius to figure out that the longer you retain possession, the longer you manage to hold on to the ball, the higher your chances of scoring. The only reason why Man Utd managed to take a 1-0 lead was because of a lucky set-piece play, a headed corner from Vidic. Even after taking the lead, the defence and midfield were STILL USING the same old tactic: instead of retaining possession and denying Bayern the ball, they kept on making the same mistakes: long ball, long ball, long ball, lose possession again, long ball.
It was no surprise that Man Utd’s lead lasted a mere eight minutes, and Bayern quickly equalised through some smart play by Mandzukic and Schweinsteiger. I knew at that moment that it would be impossible for the Red Devils to find another goal, not with their dreadful state of passing and possession.
Look, I understand the principles of playing long balls: they are a high-risk, high-reward type of pass, the complete opposite to the low-risk, low-rewards of short passing. But long balls only work if the player making the pass is good with long passes, and the receiver of the long ball knows how to move into position to receive it.
The entire match, I did not see one successful Man Utd long ball that lead to a clear, goalscoring opportunity (Welbeck’s one-on-one with the keeper does not count, it was due to a clearance error by the Bayern defender). Only a complete idiot will continue using the same tactic over and over when it clearly DOES NOT WORK.
Bayern already have a crucial away goal, Man Utd must win the second leg at all costs to progress. Good luck Moyes, you will clearly need it, and some divine intervention from the Long Ball Gods if you want to win at the Allianz Arena.