Manchester United, without their dynamic central midfield duo of Roy Keane and Paul Scholes, went with David Beckham and Nicky Butt in the middle with Ryan Giggs playing as an inverted winger on the right and Jesper Blomqvist on the left. They set out in a fairly straight forward 4-4-2.
Bayern were without Elber and the French left back Bixente Lizarazu so in came Zickler and Tarnat. Their formation was slightly more complicated and was a cross between a 3-4-3 a 5-2-3 and even a lobsided 5-3-2.
Man United came into the game knowing that one win would guide them to an historic treble. Bayern themselves knew that a win in this game would also guide them to being on the verge of a treble though they hadn't yet sealed the other two trophies.
The first few minutes were fairly even. Both sides were looking to get players forward. When Bayern Munich had the ball, their wing backs, Babbel and Tarnat, pushed forward and looked to spread the play with some quick runs from deep. There was also some good switching of the ball to each side highlighting the strength they had in width. Man United looked to push their wingers high up when they had the ball and at points when they had possession in the final third were in a formation close to a 4-2-4 with both Giggs and Blomqvist high up.
The first goal however came after just 6 minutes. Ronny Johnsen fouled Carsten Jancker just outside the box after the target man had been sent through by a high ball by Zickler on the left. Mario Basler took it and wrong footed Peter Schmeichel by curling it past the wall into the bottom corner.
Now the emphasis was on Manchester United to show what they were made of. However Bayern were extremely well organised, efficient and tactically clever.
Because of the three players high up the pitch for Bayern, the high wide players, Basler and Zickler and Carsten Jancker as the target man, the United back four were struggling. The full backs weren't used to getting so little time on the ball because of Basler and particularly Zickler so high up the pitch and Jancker was a constant nuisance for Johnsen and Stam. He was a big outlet for Bayern when they picked up possession.
United's main threat in attack was actually how deep Beckham was coming to get the ball, no matter how much Ron Atkinson kept insisting that he should be further forward. Bayern's formation had no one in attacking midfield so when Beckham moved deep he got more time on the ball. And with his range of passing, he was the one bright spark of United's play in the first half. He was spreading long diagonal balls forward from deep and from there he could force Jen Jeremies, who was often marking him tightly, to go higher up the pitch to close him down which left space behind.
However United weren't exploiting that space because their 4-4-2 was fairly rigid and this played into Bayern's hands. The Germans had two centre backs with Lotthar Matthaus covering in the libero position. This meant they outnumbered the United strikeforce. Their wing backs were very disciplined in keeping Giggs and Bomqvist in check and in midfield, Jeremies and Effenberg were fairly comfortable dealing with Beckham and Butt.
Man United couldn't break through at all. Bayern's three at the back were surrounding their strikers, there was no one in the hole for United so no one could run at Bayern's defenders and when the ball went out wide Giggs and Blomqvist were cutting inside with no overlaps from Neville or Irwin. Hence Beckham was dropping deeper to get space. However United's front players were showing an alarming lack of movement and Bayern could then retain the ball and move into the attacking phase.
Effenberg was fairly quiet by his high standards but his positioning was terrific. He was disciplined defensively and quietly causing problems in attack. He made a good number of runs forward from deep, often just off the right hand side and this meant Basler could stay deep and probe from there. With Effenberg's runs it meant that United had to deal with an extra body coming from midfield and also meant that Jancker had a number of options when the ball was played to him with his back to goal, usually in the air.
Bayern going forward weren't spectacular or particularly attractive but they were very efficient. Jancker was the main target man and plenty of balls were played long to him to challenge against Stam and Johnsen in the air while Zickler and Basler came inside for the flick ons. Often in fact it was Effenberg getting forward to the inside right position instead of Basler and their attacks built from there.
|Jancker (blue) leading the line waiting for the ball with his back to goal. Zickler and Effenberg narrow and moving forward making it easier for Jancker. Zickler in particular was causing problems with his diagonal runs.|
Basler, as mentioned, was actually fairly reserved in his positioning, which seemed strange at first but it did mean that if Bayern retained the ball, he, as Bayern's most creative player, could get more space to penetrate and create.
After the Bayern goal came, Bayern's wing backs were far more reserved. Tarnat was in as a replacement for Lizarazu and was the most attacking wing back but even he didn't get that high up the pitch. Babbel was mainly in the right wing back role as a defensive option, where he did an extremely good job against Blomqvist but showed little going forward.
After 25 minutes Lothar Matthaus was starting to build up some of Bayern's attacks. One way was that his sweeper role often allowed him space if United were dispossessed - he had no one directly to mark and therefore had no one directly marking him. On a good number of occasions, after Bayern won the ball he had plenty of time behind the centre backs to hit it long towards Jancker and thereby Bayern pushed United back and could hurt them. With Johnsen and Stam struggling to contain Jancker it always allowed Bayern an outball and made sure that United couldn't keep piling on the pressure.
Another way Matthaus was building up attacks was from getting forward from his position. With no one directly marking him and with United with no extra man in midfield, he could come out of his position and Bayern would outnumber United 3v2 in the centre. This caused problems especially with Effenberg moving forward. That meant that Beckham and Butt either had to go deep or press high. On more than one occasion, they did neither and allowed Bayern room to roam in the centre. Jeremies who later became a sweeper for Bayern after Matthaus retired, was more than capable of holding the midfield while Matthaus and Effenberg moved forward. In this scenario, with Bayern's wing backs fairly reserved, the formation in attack often became a 4-1-2-3 which was comfortable and taking advantage of the holes at defensive midfield and attacking midfield that Man United left playing a straight 4-4-2.
|Beckham loses the ball in Bayern's half. Matthaus takes hold of it from midfield.|
|He moves forward over the halfway line with no one picking him up while he charges forward.|
|Bayern, with Matthaus getting forward from the back, have a 4v4 in attack. Matthaus' runs were beginning to hurt United.|
As the first half moved on, Alexander Zickler was increasingly finding himself in the central striker role and was working well with Jancker from there. Jancker's target man ability was also used as a decoy to attract the attention of one or both of the centre backs while Zickler sneaked round the back
with some clever diagonal runs, exploiting the space left by the centre backs.
|Effenberg picks up the ball in midfield. Jancker being marked by Stam (green) is waiting for the ball over the top. Meanwhile Zickler circled red makes his diagonal run.|
|As Effenberg plays it over the top, Stam has got very tight to Jancker. Zickler makes the run in behind.|
|Stam realises that the ball is going over the top and leaves Jancker to try and get back for Zickler.|
|Zickler gets a header on target.|
Bayern were well organised with their defensive line. When United built up possession and pushed them back, they were happy to pull their wing backs deep and soak up the pressure making it hard for United to break through. Irwin and Neville weren't providing many overlaps because of the threat of Bayern's front three attacking them at pace. Meanwhile Jancker never came back but stayed high up the field waiting for a long ball and also meaning that the Johnsen and Stam couldn't move higher up the pitch and bring more pressure for Bayern Munich.
With Bayern sat deep and compact, United had a lot more possession in the first half (57%) but no real chances.
Beckham playing in central midfield made a couple of interchanges with Ryan Giggs on the right hand side, allowing the welshman to move inside and also spreading the width for United. It also meant that Beckham got more space because Bayerns coudn't afford to get to tight because they would leave space for Giggs to run into the penalty area.
United's front two of Yorke and Cole were playing as just that - a front two. Neither of them were particularly dropping deeper in between the midfield and the defence and this meant much of United's threat had to come from spreading the ball out wide. And as already said, they weren't getting much glory here. When the ball was played direct towards them, Bayern, though lucky on occasions, managed to deal with it well and dealt with well with them physically particularly Kuffour who had an excellent game at centre back.
Because of Bayern's three at centre back, they could also afford to track the strikers if they went out wide because Matthaus was always covering in the middle.
Bayern were becoming increasingly concentrated on the counter attack and were very solid in sitting deep. Towards the end of the first half Jancker moved to the left when United had the ball, meaning that diagonal balls could be played to him from the right or the centre and it also meant that if Bayern attacked quickly Zickler could use his superior pace to get behind Johnsen and Stam.
|Zickler in the centre, in blue, whilst Jancker (red) is on the left. Thus Zickler could use his pace down the centre if Bayern won the ball and Jancker was available for the long diagonal ball to the left.|
At the start of the second half there wasn't much change for either team. Bayern were sat back in a lobsided 4-1-3-2 with the wing backs fairly deep and Basler playing right midfield in front of Babbel to stop Irwin. Zickler and Jancker were the two forwards but were over to the left hand side without possession and moved into the centre when Bayern had the ball high up the pitch.
Matthaus was moving further forward and was now mainly playing in the anchor role in midfield, taking hold of any loose balls or second balls and moving forward. This started to become Bayern's main pattern in attack. Taking the ball from deep, Matthaus or Jeremies would run forward with the ball whilst they waited for support. Effenberg was starting to have more influence in an attacking role as United started to concentrate more on attack than defence and Effenberg started to find more space as United moved forward. Meanwhile Basler made a couple of terrific runs from deep, one run which resulted in the substitute Mehmet Scholl hitting the post.
Man United were still having the same problems as they did in the first half. They were still to rigid in their formation and their wingers were cutting inside to no avail while their full backs were still sat very deep, not pushing Bayern's attacking wide players back.
|This was in the opening minutes of the second half. Man United' back four aren't really looking to get forward. Neville and Irwin are very restricted in their positioning and not making many runs forward.|
With Manchester United still failing to break down the Bayern defence, Teddy Sheringham came on for Blomqvist and resulted in a formation change for United - 4-3-3. Nicky Butt sat in the holding role while Beckham and and Giggs were on their traditional sides but tucked in so that the midfield would not be overrun.
|The formations used after Sheringham and Scholl had come on.|
This was a positive change from Ferguson and a very good one tactically that change the whole dynamic about United's play. They now had more freedom to interchange in their roles with 3 up front making more use of the Bayern back line. In midfield, Bayern were now also outnumbered at times and the full backs, Babbel and Tarnat, were confused who to pick up. Sometimes the strikers went out wide. Sometimes they'd stay inside and the full backs would now have no one to pick up. Sometimes Beckham or Giggs went wide and the full backs picked them up.
It all equated to Man United finally being able to break through the Bayern defence. They started to stretch them, get more bodies in the box and actually started to create some chances. Just a couple of minutes after the change, United worked their way into the box and Cole found some space to attempt an overhead kick that flew off his shin wide of the goal. However it was positive and United's play started to get more fluid.
The more defensive minded Mehmet Scholl replaced a tired Alexander Zickler and played a more reserved wide role similar to the role Mario Basler on the right, sitting much deeper than Zickler had previously done. With room now out wide for the full backs to get forward, Bayern couldn't allow them to push forward and create an extra option.
However it now meant that Bayern were now forced to sit deep and allow United onto them. In their attacking phase, Jancker was now up front on his own so long balls were at a premium because of lack of knock down options for Jancker to play it too. The moves therefore became more precisely constructed. It did help them out that Neville and Irwin were now pushing forward and gave them more space to be able to construct these attacking moves. Effenberg was at the heart of them on a couple of occasions, getting up to support Jancker and forcing a good save off Peter Schmeichel.
Mario Basler, took advantage of Denis Irwin being high up the pitch and after some wonderful play, Scholl making a diagonal run, saw his lob hit the post. This was the risk that United took and now had to take. The game as a result had opened up.
United were now looking far more promising going forward, with Giggs beginning to assert himself, moving inside and Sheringham a threat in the air. Because of Beckham's position in midfield, the angle was such that he could start playing some high diagonal balls to Sheringham who was on the left. This was a tactic that worked well and a couple of knock downs resulted in promising positions for United.
|Beckham picks up the ball inside to the right.|
|He plays the long diagonal ball to the left towards Sheringham in the air, a deliberate tactic.|
|Sheringham knocks it down for Irwin who is now in space and has time to cross. This tactic was used a number of times by United when Sheringham came one.|
The build up play was a lot more dynamic. A good passing move in which Sheringham dropped deep allowed Nicky Butt to force his way through the defence and flick it dangerously across goal.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came on for Andy Cole immediately and seemed to have the freedom to drift around fairly freely up front. His first touch just seconds after coming on was a header from a Neville cross at the near post that Kahn was forced to save. Now United had seemed to get an extra energy about their play, even though it was simply the fact that they'd tactically found a way to stretch Bayern and open them up at the back.
Matthaus had come off a few moments earlier and had been replaced by Torsten Fink who had a bigger tendency to sit back than Matthaus. This was a good move and made it tighter for United in the centre because Fink wasn't leaving as many spaces going forward.
At this point though, defensive solidity was not anywhere near the level it had been in the first half for either team. Bayern were still finding space in between the midfield and defence and Scholl, cutting inside behind the United centre midfielders, forced a good save from Schmeichel. Jancker hit the crossbar with an overhead kick just a couple of minutes later and so United were still riding their luck.
Bayern's formation despite these couple of chances showed a big emphasis on stopping United. With less than ten minutes remaining, Bayern were playing close to a 5-4-1 formation with both wide midfielders deep and Jancker leading the line up front.
|Both wide players sat deep to create a compact 4 in midfield, while both wing backs are tucked in deep to create a 5 in defence (Babbel is out of shot in this picture)|
Sheringham at points was now playing a similar role to Jancker in the first half and being used as a target man in the air with two or three players squeezing in for knock downs. This tactic forced a chance for him in the area but he hit it straight at the goalkeeper. Meanwhile, Neville and Irwin were now for the first time pushing much higher up the pitch and giving United more options. United;s wide play at this point was much more dynamic and with lots of interchanging of positions they were creating chances again. Cole miscued after Gary Neville had got into the area and provided a ball across goal. Then seconds later, Denis Irwin, forward on the left, put the ball into the box that Solksjaer headed straight at Kahn.
Man United's front line in the last few minutes was a lobsided 4-2-1-3 with the three strikers leaning to the right and Giggs slightly deeper filling up the space on the left.
|The three strikers over to the right, while Giggs sits slightly deeper on the left.|
At this point though, it's perhaps best to not even mention tactics but instead reflect on the last couple of minutes.
One of the most amazing European Cup Finals ever and one that will never be forgotten by Manchester United fans.
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