Toni Kroos’ inclusion for Bayern Munich ahead of Javi Martinez showed why Manchester United must buy both the German and a midfield enforcer.
Bayern Munich paid the price for enjoying plenty of possession but having little penetration against Real Madrid on Tuesday evening.
Pep Guardiola’s side had 69% of the ball against their Spanish opponents in the Champions League semi-final second leg. And yet despite enjoying a meagre 31% of possession, it was Real who scored four times without reply.
The Bayern player who made the most passes against Real was Toni Kroos, who continued his outstanding European record with 132 passes against Carlo Ancelotti’s side. And yet it was Kroos’ very inclusion in the side that could well have proved Bayern’s downfall.
The Manchester United target is an outstanding footballer who rarely misplaces a ball. But playing alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger, he was bypassed in a way that his teammate Javi Martinez almost certainly would not have been.
Martinez started the game on the bench, and was only brought into the action when the game was already lost.
Guardiola brought on his midfield enforcer at half-time, with the home side already 3-0 down, and Real failed to find the net again until the 89th minute. But it was the right change at the wrong time.
Martinez should have started the game, and maybe, just maybe, the result would have been different.
This was a game for pragmatism in the face of the triple threat of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Angel Di Maria. But in opting for Kroos over Martinez, Guardiola gave Madrid the perfect chance to finish the job they had started in the Bernabeu.
In light of that, if United do push forward with a move for the German international, they will also need an enforcer in the mould of William Carvalho to allow Kroos to do what he is best at.
The young Portuguese international has shone for Sporting Lisbon this season and has been heavily linked with a big-money move to Old Trafford. Indeed, prior to his departure, David Moyes reportedly sent scouts to watch him upwards of 15 times.
But despite no longer being at the club, one of Moyes’ reported top targets could do the dirty work behind Kroos, allowing the German star to excel.