Sitting in block 225 of the South Stand at Old Trafford last Tuesday, just to the right of the bench and beneath the press box, my eyes were drawn to the banner that proudly hangs on the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand.
It reads “The Impossible Dream, Made Possible”. It’s a banner paying tribute to the former Manchester United manager and the ridiculous number of trophies he helped bring to the club - most notably 13 English Premier League titles and two European Champions League triumphs.
But seeing that banner while watching the post-Ferguson United take on the might of European champions Bayern Munich in a Champions League quarterfinal first leg – it made me chuckle.
If there there was an impossible dream, it was this.
United were trying to beat the best team in Europe - not to mention reigning world and German champions - who have also just retained the Bundesliga in record time and happen to have stepped up three gears since the arrival of Pep Guardiola last year.
And that’s even before you consider that United came into the match seventh in the Premier League table, led by an under-fire manager, short of confidence and without star striker Robin van Persie.
Read: "Man Utd clash is life or death"
But David Moyes’ side put up a fight more like the United of old. Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and co. battled to a 1-1 draw, with a resurgent Nemanja Vidic getting on the scoresheet and showing signs of returning to his imperious best.
Certainly not the worst result to take into Wednesday's second leg at Bayern's Allianz Arena. And into the darkest corners of my mind, popped that thought that just maybe United could pull off something special.
And then came the weekend.
Guardiola’s Bayern were beaten for the first time in 54 league games - suffering a 1-0 defeat to eighth-place Augsburg - leaving them without a win in their last three games.
Admittedly Guardiola rested a host of his biggest stars with an eye on Wednesday’s clash - describing the second leg as a final.
On Saturday United stormed to an impressive 4-0 win against Newcastle – Moyes also having to do without a number of big names.
Read: Liverpool back on top after controversial win
It was another win on the road that makes them the Premier League’s most successful team away from home this season. That’s now three games unbeaten for United.
“There is a big expectation at Old Trafford,” said Moyes by way of explanation. "Whereas away from home, maybe there isn’t that same expectancy.”
There certainly won’t be any expectation as United head to the Munich. But where many fans had given up hope last week... now there might just be a glimmer.
I haven’t lost my marbles – I know that big-money signing Marouane Fellaini isn’t anywhere near a Champions League player. There’s no hiding the fact that veteran defender Rio Ferdinand is being held together by sticky tape and a whole pharmacy counter. And you can’t even compare Moyes’ CV (zero major honors) with Guardiola’s (11 major honors - nine with Barcelona and two already with Bayern.)
But if the spirit of the last couple of games is anything to go by, United's players seem to have steeled themselves after much criticism. Moyes has even started striding down the touchline with something that resembles purpose.
And - as we keep being reminded - no team has ever successfully defended the Champions League crown.
In the 30 years that I’ve been following United, and going to games with my Dad, our mantra has always been “keep the faith”. Why change the habit of a lifetime now.
Moyes has to play Shinji Kagawa, Man utd just cant do what they did in old trafford.
The players moyes have at his disposal are no less compared to Bayern (specially in the attacking players). So ManU needs to utilize its strength and try to keep the ball in the bayern half, rather than kicking the ball with a hope that Danny can get the ball.
Playing against a team like Bayern, you wont get much of ball, so its important to have the composure to keep the ball and no one does it better in ManU team than Shinji.
He has proven in last few matches how effective it can be, Mata might have taken the headlines but Shinji definitely has better statistics than mata in all three matches.Nonetheless Moyes seems to be too skeptical of using Shinji (dont forgent shinji record against Bayern Munich).
Thank you for the support; truly we always dare. Remember the name of our stadia; 'Theater of Dreams'.
Man u is at the edge of history,i have no doubt that united are carrying the day,because Bayern defeated Man city and Arsenal at the group and knock out stages and yet they think is gonna be an easy ride over Man u which is not.Despite the poor run in all domestic competition is not yet over for man u.
yes man u can, just as president Obama laid the inspirational phrase,every can do it if Obama can do it Man u can do it
Awesome post! Believe!
let Moyes pull up his socks
I have a feeling United will win the Champion's league. Greetings from the UK :-)
Seems like nobody here saw the game at old Trafford. ManU had like 2 big chances and 1 of it was a lucky goal. Bayern will destroy them 3:0. ManU will play as weak as in the first game.
They did, but are "hopping" for a win in Germany.. not sure what make they think they can play better in Germany while they had a bad game in their home.
Bayern 3 MU 1 ( at most).
Manu are in trouble. I don't know why the Manu supporters are such wimps. In my country, this moyes would've been out long ago and he would've been physically attacked by now. He signs this afro fellaini who has clown feet, yet the fans still love fellaini. This makes me laugh. Manu would attract a certain type of player in the past, players who were world class. Now you have a coach who knows nothing and a team that's starting to look like ac Milan. Once Milan started buying players like Prince, obviously something is wrong. It's called corruption or favoritism, that's why Manu suck.
We have done it before, we will do it tonight against Bayern and we shall forever dream.....#GGMU UCL Road to semi-final 2013/2014 all clear....IGN
pls Moyes make us dream tonight and start januzaj.tnx
Man-U need to go into the game with a spirited mind, and hold on to the ball as much as Bayen. Possibly a first half goal will come. putting united in a good position.Frankly speaking Bayen munich will also get a goal in that game.
Glory Glory Man Utd,,,,Glory Glory Man Utd,,,,,GLORY GLORY MAN UTD THE Champions are maching ON.
i believe Manchester united will win bayern and i als believe that davide moyes will soon be the best coach in England ,mark my words ,i want you guys to check how many years Sir Alex Faguson lift up trophy for the first time in Manchester united ,so please lets give him chance to bring up his new style of coaching ok.
I think no body is shocked by ousetting of M.U by the Bayern,as it is not that one of the 1999 and Moyes is not Ferguson.!
Results in the QFs have shown that the toughest four have reached the semis. PSG, Man United, Barça and Dortmund came very close but may have to wait and intensify their preparations to take their rightful place in the CL hierarchy. All the best to Carlo Ancelotti, Pep Guardiola, José Mourinho and Diego Simeone in the battles ahead.
Amanda is a sport anchor and correspondent for CNN International who has covered live events from the English Premier League to the Champions League; Wimbledon to The Boat Race, and Formula 1 to the Olympics. As a specialist in football and Formula One Amanda has interviewed a host of international sporting faces on her travels, including Bernie Ecclestone, Michael Schumacher, Roy Hodgson, Sven Goran Eriksson, Boris Becker, Fernando Alonso, Jessica Ennis, Goran Ivanisevic, Matthew Pinsent, Bradley Wiggins, Mark Webber, Edwin Van Der Sar, Andrew Flintoff, Colin Montgomerie and Jimmy Anderson.
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