Four ways Manchester United can stun Bayern Munich

Manchester United 3

David Moyes' side approach this evening's encounter as rank outsiders against the team they beat to secure a famous treble in 1999.

Manchester United supporters have had to shift expectations to an all-time low this season and go into tonight's Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich bizarrely labelled 'rank outsiders' for the first time in what seems an eternity.

Never has a United side since the competition's inception in 1992 headed into the latter stages of Europe's elite tournament considered as such but given Bayern's current standing and the malaise which has engulfed the reigning English champions' first season without Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm, their stock is at an all-time low.

With precious little other than pride to play for in the Premier League this season, Europe has offered some much-needed welcome respite to the beleaguered David Moyes, whose debut term in charge started badly and has only continued to descend in a markedly precipitous trajectory.

That respite appears to come to the abruptest of halts, however, with United having been pitted against the current European heavyweight in Bayern Munich.

Munich, of course, are looking to emulate last season's triumph and also secure the unprecedented feat of back-to-back crowns and will take some stopping having won the Bundesliga title at a canter.

The title was secured in style just six days ago with a 3-1 win at Hertha Berlin and, although a much-changed lineup could only draw with Hoffenheim at the weekend, the season's record - at least domestically - reads: P 28 W 25 D 3 L 0.

Their stumble at the weekend proves there are chinks in the armour and, with both Arsenal and Manchester City having come away from the Allianz Arena without defeat this season, United must retain some faith in the momentous task they face in inflicting defeat over two legs against Pep Guardiola's juggernaut.

Robin van Persie's injury and Patrice Evra's suspension only add to the size of the challenge United face and, with the first leg at Old Trafford, it is vital United get off to as good a start as possible.

But just how are they expected to overcome a side which has conceded just six in Europe and plundered 20 in their eight games? Here are five ways United could do just that...

1) Defensive support

Moyes will be pondering the various personnel at his disposal for such a crucial encounter and simply must get it right in the wide positions if his side are to stand any reasonable chance of taking anything to the Allianz Arena in eight days' time.

Antonio Valencia - particularly if Mata is fielded inside - would offer the requisite defensive protection needed to combat Franck Ribery's effervescent wing play and his displays at right-back offer proof of his credentials to help hot-head Rafael out in the right-back position.

The left-hand side becomes a trickier proposition. With Alex Büttner forced into the defence as a result of Evra's ban, Moyes is left with a number of attack-minded wingers. A cavalier gameplan is the last thing United need, particularly with Büttner set to go head to head with Arjen Robben.

Danny Welbeck would offer pace if perhaps too much of an inclination to get forward, Adnan Januzaj's inexperience could count against him while Ashley Young looks a long shot after another gaffe at the weekend led to Villa's opening goal.

Perhaps Moyes could call on the big-game nous and discipline of Ryan Giggs? His dwindling speed across the ground provides the Scot with another problem but he must get the formula right to nullify the threat from wide areas.

2) Tight-knit midfield

Marouane Fellaini's hopeless showing in defeat to city rivals Manchester City last week underlined his limitations against the highest level of opposition and Moyes must resist the urge to field his mentee in such a high-profile clash.

Again, the paucity of central midfield options other than Michael Carrick poses yet more problems for Moyes and the temptation to field Giggs may once more be flawed due to the lack of mobility in sharp contrast to Bayern's revolving midfield ranks.

Darren Fletcher offers a solidity and big-game responsibility not associated with the likes of Tom Cleverley and Fellaini and, along with Carrick, offers enough support to a backline sure to be sorely tested.

3) Options off the bench

Moyes does not need to chase the game with a second leg still to come, but any result this evening will be paramount to their chances of progressing. 

With that in mind, Moyes must keep some gamechangers or, indeed, game preservers amongst his substitutes to have an impact on the game.

The likes of Shinji Kagawa and Javier Hernandez, for instance, offer Moyes tangible threat in the attacking third and also offer wildcard options in that they differ from the primary forwards on the pitch. Phil Jones, meanwhile, comes with versatility and battle-hardened qualities and could help United protect any prospective lead.

4) Evoking the memories of '99

Moyes needn't give a team-talk this evening, all he needs is to recall one of United's greatest-ever nights, when they won their second Champions League crown.

A late quickfire double from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stunned Bayern and handed United the trophy in the Nou Camp back in 1999 and, while United fans will struggle to see beyond the difficulties of this season, such memories must be called upon in their attempts to replicate them.

If he is to help United realise the loftier heights which they have embarrassingly come nowhere near to matching this campaign, the players and manager must come together as one and form a united front to live up to this famous club's inherent never-say-die attitude, evidenced in '99.

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