Champions League Winners And Losers

David Moyes is somehow a loser in a no-lose situation. Nobody expected them to beat Bayern - but surely that's damning in itself. Jose is a winner after losing...

Last Updated: 10/04/14 at 12:39 Post Comment

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Winners

Chelsea and Jose Mourinho
Vindication for Mourinho at a time when he needed it most. Following the collapse of Chelsea's title procession with defeats to Aston Villa and Crystal Palace, doubts were beginning to creep in about the manager's ability to get the most out of his players as the season goes to the wire. At Stamford Bridge, Mourinho answered his critics emphatically.

So emphatically, in fact, that Chelsea's 3-1 defeat to PSG only a week ago has been quickly forgotten. It should be remembered of course that the excitement of Tuesday's victory was founded in such a dismal performance in the first leg. Without the sorry night in Paris, when Mourinho slammed his team's 'ridiculous' defending, Tuesday's redemption would have been impossible. The narrative has twisted perfectly in the manager's favour.

But these are the occasions in which Mourinho normally thrives and, as Sarah Winterburn wrote here, his careful planning for every eventuality was crucial in the Blues sneaking the 2-0 win they required. The early injury to Eden Hazard could have blown Chelsea's chances, but Mourinho has gained a valuable contribution from Andre Schurrle in recent weeks and the German was again pivotal in the result on Tuesday.

The aim in the semi-final - the manager's fifth in consecutive seasons - is to avoid such a disastrous first-leg performance if Chelsea are drawn away from home. They were only five minutes from crashing out to PSG, after all, a lesson Mourinho should have learned when his Real Madrid side failed to overcome their 4-1 first-leg defeat to Borussia Dortmund in last season's semi-final.

A draw against Real Madrid would provide a fitting sub-plot for a manager who relishes the drama on the elite stage, and Chelsea may prefer their chances against Real than either of the other two semi-finalists.


David Luiz
A 'monster' according to Mourinho, who praised Luiz's performance after the Brazilian dominated the midfield battle and provided the headed flick for Schurrle to convert the opening goal. Similar to his performances against Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal in the Premier League, Luiz asserted his authority in the middle of the pitch with an arrogance that will have pleased his manager.

"I don't want central defenders playing in midfield," said Mourinho in September as he tried to distance himself from Rafa Benitez's reign. We doubt he'll now admit Rafa was right all along.


Atletico Madrid
It isn't often that a team can be so wasteful against Barcelona and yet still end up winning. Had Diego Costa been fit, Atletico might have found their progress even more straightforward as they created the better chances in a frantic opening period and hit the woodwork on three occasions - one of which led to Koke's crucial strike.

Despite recording just 29% possession, Diego Simeone's side managed 15 shots, five of which were on target compared to just three efforts from Barcelona that tested Thibaut Courtois. Atletico's strength lies in their incredible energy to press and harry their opponents into mistakes. They certainly don't possess the best players of the remaining four challengers, but even Bayern would struggle to rival their qualities as a team.


Danny Welbeck
Manchester United's best performer on a disappointing evening. Given the 23-year-old's current stage of development, Welbeck stands to lose more than most from United's drop out of the Champions League. The striker relished the chance to test himself against Bayern on Wednesday and caused numerous problems for Dante and Jerome Boateng with his pace, power and intelligent movement across the final third. If he can carry that level of performance into next season, he should tear it up in the Europa League.


Shinji Kagawa
A spring revival to improve his chances of staying at United in the summer. While Kagawa's link-up with Juan Mata has been a pleasure to watch in the Premier League, his performance in difficult circumstances against Bayern offered even more encouragement. The playmaker was careful in possession, diligent in his defensive duties, and pivotal in United offering more attacking threat than they did in the first leg. Kagawa's 90 minutes against Newcastle suggested he wasn't initially in David Moyes' plans for his first XI on Wednesday, but it seems the Japanese is finally convincing the manager of his worth.


Borussia Dortmund
Another noble failure, as Dortmund hammered Madrid in search of a third goal only to see Henrikh Mkhitaryan hit the post after rounding Iker Casillas.

It will be interesting to see what decision Jurgen Klopp makes on his future in the summer. The manager has already begun planning for Robert Lewandowski's departure by agreeing a deal for Hertha Berlin's 16-goal striker Adrian Ramos, but there is still a feeling that he could be tempted by a new challenge should the right opportunity arise. Arsenal and United would do well to move in fast.


Real Madrid
Through by the skin of their teeth to keep hopes of 'La Decima' alive. It was amusing to see Pepe giving it the big one to supporters at full-time, pumping his fists in the air and screaming 'vamos' to the away section. Sure, celebrate the achievement, but if Pepe and his teammates are comprehensively outplayed again in two weeks' time, they can expect to crash out at the semi-final stage for the fourth time in four years.


Liverpool
Their first entry in Champions League Winners and Losers for a long, long time, but undoubtedly beneficiaries from Chelsea's progression. The Reds will now face the Blues on April 27 between the two legs of their semi-final. In terms of the title race, it is a huge swing in Liverpool's favour.


Bayern Munich
They did what they had to, but little more than that. Indeed, for all the talk of 'winning better' under Pep Guardiola, Bayern were reduced to relying on Arjen Robben pot-shots in the first half, mirroring their performance in the 2012 final against Chelsea. They will relish the opportunity to face a team who will open up and try to attack them in the semi-finals; the only problem is that Real Madrid are the only opponent Guardiola can expect to provide such a test.


Losers


PSG
No Zlatan, no party. The credit goes to Jose Mourinho for masterminding Chelsea's turnaround against the French champions, but Laurent Blanc deserves criticism for failing in what was a much easier test than the Barcelona tie Carlo Ancelotti faced last season.

PSG crash out on away goals for the second successive campaign, but this should be seen as a step backwards in the club's ambition to challenge for the trophy.


Barcelona
Even without Diego Costa, Atletico Madrid clearly fancied their chances against a centre-back pairing of Javier Mascherano and Marc Bartra. Barcelona's defence has been their Achilles' heel for years and yet they have repeatedly failed to remedy the situation. Unless the club's transfer ban is overturned, they can expect to be held back by the same problems next season. There has been a power-shift at Europe's top table that Barca must address in the summer.


David Moyes
Somehow a loser in a no-lose situation. There is little shame in a 4-2 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich, who thrashed Barcelona 7-0 in the semi-finals last season, but the nature of Manchester United's collapse, and what it now means for the club, casts further doubt over Moyes being allowed to continue in his role.

For almost an hour on Wednesday, the manager's game plan worked perfectly. Remain compact, look for opportunities on the break and, above all, don't concede. A 0-0 scoreline at the interval was 'job done' - United only needed to nick a goal and suddenly the impossible would be achievable.

And then Patrice Evra struck a shot so forceful that it seemed to expend United's power of conviction. Rather than fortifying their approach, it led to visitors' resolve disintegrating and a complete loss of concentration. Mario Mandzukic's strike was a cruel blow, but less forgivable were the nine minutes before Thomas Muller prodded in Bayern's second when United failed to regain their shape.

Moyes' Mourinho moment had passed. He had planned meticulously for the expected, but when the unlikely occurred - a United lead - the game ran away from him. Whatever the manager said to Darren Fletcher amid the frantic celebrations of Evra's strike should have remained the instruction despite Mandzukic levelling the score just 22 seconds later. United were still in the tie - even more so than when the game began.

Javier Hernandez's introduction for Fletcher with 15 minutes to go further hinted at a lack of planning. When Bayern needed a goal Pep Guardiola replaced Mario Gotze, an attacker, with the right-back Rafinha, moving Philipp Lahm into a more central position. The result was that Bayern retained a balanced shape - as balanced as 2-5-3 can be, anyway - to create opportunities in frequency rather than fortune. United, meanwhile, relied on hope and the curious idea that a finisher could find a goal despite the absence of chances. It was a treasure hunt without a map.

Perhaps it is unfair to compare Moyes to Guardiola given the unfavourable conclusion. It is a process that serves to highlight Moyes' lack of experience, but in truth it is more damning of the decision to appoint the former Everton manager as Sir Alex Ferguson's successor. Of course Moyes would come up short in a battle of wits and test of adaptability against Guardiola - did Ferguson really expect anything different when he invited the Scot to his home in May to tell him the big news?

"I'm fortunate that I'm taking over the champions of England, so that gives me a great start, better than most would get," said Moyes when he revealed the details of his meeting with Ferguson back in July. His confidence in the squad soon gave way to worries about the fixture list and a perceived lack of quality that supposedly provides some justification for the champions dropping out of Europe's elite competition for the first time in 19 years.

It is a sorry state of affairs compounded by the manager still failing to grasp the enormity of his position. "It is a great competition - we have really enjoyed it - and there is no shame in going out to Bayern Munich," said Moyes in the aftermath of Tuesday's defeat. But this wasn't about enjoyment to a club that expects to be challenging at the top table every season. The fans needed proof that Moyes is capable of eventually achieving that aim despite the difficulties in his first year.

It seems that the evidence is still missing. As Sarah Winterburn wrote after the first leg at Old Trafford, facing Bayern allowed Moyes to play to his strengths. The fact that those strengths are founded in resolute defending and strict organisation somewhat jars with the identity that Ferguson fashioned for United over his 27 years. Either the club accepts the ensuing limitation of its expections, or a new manager should be sought in the summer.


Manchester United
The bigger they come, the harder they fall. Just 12 months ago, who would have thought that United would now be staring at a season in the Europa League while Liverpool challenge for the title?

David Moyes and Gary Neville might have contested that the club will retain their pulling power in the transfer market following the defeat to Bayern, but after the story of this season there should be serious doubts about how quickly the champions can expect to return to the top four. There has been talk of an overhaul in the summer, but the churn of players at Liverpool and Tottenham in recent seasons underlines the difficulty of achieving such enormous transition while remaining competitive.

If Moyes couldn't guide a settled squad of league winners into the top four this year, does he really stand a strong chance of fulfilling that requirement as he tries to shape a new team next season?


Wayne Rooney
Perhaps unfairly criticised for his poor performance owing to the fact that his problems with an injured toe were well-publicised in the build-up to the game.

However, it says a lot about Rooney and his £300,000-a-week contract that there is now little surprise when he fails to star on the biggest stage. His potential to dominate games has long since escaped him, with the striker shunted out to the wing against Real Madrid in the first leg of United's second-round tie last season, before he was dropped from the starting line-up altogether at Old Trafford. Maybe Rooney needs a manager who will push his limits, rather than indulge his whims.

Matthew Stanger - follow him on Twitter here

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