Six years ago today Manchester United raced into a three-goal lead against Louis van Gaal’s Bayern Munich, only for Arjen Robben to steal the show.
Manchester United 3 Bayern Munich 2 (Aggregate 4-4, Bayern won on away goals)
United headed into the fixture trailing 2-1 on aggregate after a first-leg which was marred by an injury to Wayne Rooney, who had scored 35 goals that season. Sir Alex Ferguson decided to gamble on the striker’s fitness, starting the future England captain at Old Trafford.
And the risk appeared to have paid off spectacularly when the hosts surged into a three-goal lead after only 41 minutes. Irish midfielder Darron Gibson opened the scoring with a smart finish from the edge of the box after linking up with Rooney, before Nani made it 2-0 only seven minutes in, converting Antonio Valencia’s cross with a superb back-heel.
The Portuguese winger, enjoying one of his finest games in a United shirt, put the Red Devils 4-2 up on aggregate with a clinical finish at the back post following yet more impressive work from Valencia on the right flank.
However, Ivica Olic gave Bayern a route back into the tie just before half-time, out-muscling Michael Carrick and firing past Edwin van der Sar to leave the Old Trafford faithful biting their fingernails.
Arguably the game’s pivotal moment came five minutes after half-time, right-back Rafael receiving a second yellow card for a foul on Frank Ribery, a decision which incensed Ferguson. The blow was compounded moments later by the sight of Rooney limping off the pitch, with a recurrence of the injury which would blight his World Cup preparation, to be replaced by John O’Shea.
And Bayern Munich dealt the killer blow with just over 15 minutes remaining. Ribery’s corner picked out former Chelsea winger Arjen Robben unmarked on the edge of the box, and the Dutchman fired home a sublime volley to silence the home fans.
Manchester United: Van der Sar, Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Valencia, Carrick (Berbatov 80), Fletcher, Gibson (Giggs 80), Nani, Rooney (O’Shea 55)
Goals: Gibson 3, Nani 7, 41
Red cards: Rafael
Bayern Munich: Butt, Lahm, Van Buyten, Demichelis, Badstuber, Ribery, Van Bommel, Schweinsteiger, Robben (Altintop 76), Olic (Pranjic 84), Muller (Gomez 46)
Goals: Olic 43, Robben 74
What they said:
Sir Alex Ferguson was furious at the Bayern Munich players’ behaviour in the build-up to Rafael’s red card:
“The young boy showed a bit of inexperience but they got him sent off, everyone sprinted towards the referee – typical Germans.
“It was typical professionalism in a way but they saw the opportunity and they almost forced the referee to get the card out – the referee wasn’t going to do anything. But we’ve seen it before from teams like that.
“The Bayern players got him sent off, there’s no doubt about that. It was only a little tug of the lad 35 yards from goal, they’re not even a goal threat at that point.
“[Rafael’s] inexperienced and sometimes, like that, the inexperience can show itself. But he had a marvellous performance, the boy, and it’s a tragedy for him. But I think we were very unlucky tonight.”
Louis van Gaal, however, disagreed with Ferguson’s view:
“I thought England was a country of fair play and I don’t think that is fair.
“I don’t share Sir Alex’s opinion. Part of being a player is control. Every player must know if you pick up one yellow card, a second one means a sending off.
“I certainly believe it was a yellow card offence and that is down to the player.
“Did the red card change the game? We shall never know. It is easy to say that after a loss. This game shall not be played again. I think [Ferguson] is just disappointed.”