Mia san mia. It’s a Bavarian phrase, used by Bayern, that translates as, “We are who we are”. It’s somewhat akin to the Manc phrase I’ve seen on banners this year, “Not arrogant. Just better.” We are two, insanely proud, universally loved by their fans - and hated by everyone else, clubs with long, storied traditions.
Ivica Olic celebrates his goal ©Getty Images
I hadn’t given much thought as to what would happen beyond this round, as I, realistically, thought we wouldn’t get through. That is, until the 92nd minute of last Tuesday’s match. My companion and I, seated next to the Manchester United supporters section, went completely bananas as Ivica Olic stole the ball from Patrice Evra, and sent Edwin van der Saar the wrong way to score the game winner.
The United fans shuffled out of the Allianz Arena as Wayne Rooney limped off the field and the Bavarians sang (as Germans are wont to do) “Stern des Suedens”. Oh! What an amazing moment in my life! And one that will never, ever be forgotten. In the afterglow of the victory, grinning with wonderment, I looked at my friend and said, “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but, we might actually go through!”
Then, the weekend saw the Reds vs. the Blues in Germany and England as Manchester United battled, and lost, to Chelsea 1-2 at Old Trattford and a 10-man Bayern squad triumphed away at the Veltins Arena, against Schalke 04, also 1-2. Coincidence? I think not…
But, now, here we are again.
I was very happy, looking through all the pre-match press, to see pictures of Daniel van Buyten and Arjen Robben at the airport, hopping on a plane to Manchester. My dreams of a full-strength squad for the return leg were being fully realized. And the additional report, where Sir Alex Ferguson has ruled out Wayne Rooney for Wednesday’s match, only gave me more reason to smile.
Instead of Rooney, Martin Demichelis and van Buyten will now be in charge of corralling Dimitar Berbatov. And while Dracula is not as aggressive as Rooney, he is a very smart footballer - magically turning up at exactly the right place at the right time. Also, he adds a bit more height and will be dangerous on crosses in to the box and corners. However, except for the glitch in the first 80 seconds in the first leg (which had me out of my seat and screaming, “Who’s got Rooney?!”), the two center-backs did an admirable job stopping most everything that came their way. (On a side note, am I the only one who wants Demichelis to score and then run to a corner flag, pull it out of the ground and finish with a wicked riposte?)
Nani and Valencia vs. Badstuber and Lahm. Look for most offensive United chances to come through Nani, as he out-paces Badstuber. Valencia will have his hands full with the supremely talented Lahm. Also, to Bayern’s benefit, Nani and Valencia will have to come back to defend against Ribery and Robben, who should never be left in single coverage.
The welcome re-addition of Bastian Schweinstieger to the central midfield only helps Mark van Bommel defensively. Basti has shown, this season, merciless attacking and defending, disrupting midfields. and will be a pleasure to watch against Carrick, Park and Co.
At the beginning of this quarter-final tie, I gave Bayern almost no chance to go through. And at the cusp of the second leg, my United fan friends, grudgingly, say we will. Anything is possible at Old Trattford, however. And I wouldn’t be surprised if SAF had something up his sleeves in the Theatre of Dreams. But, on paper, we have the will, and the way, to make it to the semis.
Not arrogant. Just better.
Mia san mia.
Author’s note: Even though I heartily dislike Manchester United Football Club, I have to say that their traveling supporters are absolutely amazing! In Munich, and last year in Rome, they were some of the coolest, most welcoming people I’ve ever met. Although, I think they were a bit shocked that a German-American GIRL travels to Europe to watch matches. Hopefully, I’ve impressed them as much as they’ve impressed me. To Paul, Dave, Phil, Phil, John and all the others: Cheers, mates