United invoke glory night

The 1999 victory sticks in mind of fans, but they should be wary of 2001 and 2002 defeats even as Ferguson is unlikely to call on Rooney.

When Manchester United face German opposition, the memory tends to be stirred by one match or, to be precise, the added time at the end of it. No second invitation is required to reminisce about 1999, about the goals from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the Camp Nou.

Yet selective recall can obscure other meetings, ones that may prove more pertinent tonight. Twice in as many seasons - years Sir Alex Ferguson had originally intended to be his last at Old Trafford - his hopes of conquering the continent were ended by Germans: Bayern Munich in 2001, and Bayer Leverkusen 12 months later. It was a different era, one where English excellence was not taken for granted and there was no need for the Bundesliga's finest to have an inferiority complex.

There are parallels with 2010. Placed in the favourable half of the draw, a potential semi-final against Lyon or Bordeaux suggested a navigable path to a third successive Champions League final for United. But only if they can overcome Bayern. Injury time proved aptly named at the Allianz Arena last Tuesday. The blow of Ivica Olic's winning goal was compounded by the loss of Wayne Rooney. Amid reports of an improbable comeback, Ferguson has ruled his talisman out tonight, while nonetheless hinting that he could figure.

"He's got no chance of playing," he began. "I don't think he will be on the bench, although he might talk me into it." Beyond the damage done to the top scorer and the scoreline, there is the question of harm inflicted to Ferguson's gameplan last Tuesday. It is one that has served him well in Europe: to play with a trio of central midfielders, at a measured pace, controlling possession and counter-attacking at speed.

Eight days ago, Louis van Gaal provided an eloquent response: isolating Franck Ribery against the declining Gary Neville, dropping his second striker, Thomas Muller, into a deeper role to prevent his side being outnumbered in midfield; hassling and harrying Paul Scholes, and playing at a speed that disconcerted some of their opponents. They presented problems, not least for the most decorated manager in the business.

"A better performance than the one in Munich is vital," said the Scot. "A good performance would get the fans and players going." His dilemma is how to produce one. Federico Macheda is in contention for a start, but the likelihood is that Dimitar Berbatov will lead the line in a 4-5-1 formation. United meet a Bayern side that should be stronger. Bastian Schweinsteiger, who was suspended for the first leg, is eligible again; Arjen Robben may be fit after a calf problem. With Martin Demichelis and Daniel van Buyten, the central defenders, unconvincing at times, Van Gaal's team may have a soft underbelly.

Exploit it, and United could party like it is 1999; fail to and they may lament like it is 2001 or 2002. @Email:sports@thenational.ae