David Moyes will close the season as Manchester United manager, no matter how bad things get at Old Trafford. But his team are out of the race for fourth place in the Premier League, out of both domestic cups, and presumably, will be out of the Champions League shortly. No sane person is picking United to dethrone defending champions Bayern Munich, who are demonstrably better than the Red Devils in every discernible way.
There's a rather large subset of United fans who believe that the Glazer family will always chose the cheapest options available to them and that they're more interested in a stable product than they are winning as many trophies as possible. These people believe that Moyes will be retained for that reason and that reason alone, though everyone else has come to the conclusion that he will be fired.
Of course, a Champions League victory could turn everything around for Moyes at United, but they're not going to win the Champions League. Everyone knows this. Nothing they have done at any point this season, in any competition, suggests that they are capable of beating the best teams in the world or winning anything. The post-Alex Ferguson era has started in as disastrous a fashion as possible.
Moyes will have a handful of United games in charge between his getting knocked out of the Champions League by Bayern and the termination of his employment, but this is, in a way, his last big hurrah. It's his last chance to show the world that he's not out of his depth and that he is capable of leading a big club to success.
That's really what this tie is all about, mostly because Bayern have ceased to be interesting, at least when taking on opponents of United's caliber. It's become tedious to talk about how much better they are than their opponents. They were so much better than Arsenal that very few entertained the possibility of an upset, and Arsenal are much better than United. It doesn't matter that Manchester United are one of the biggest names in world football and one of the most successful clubs in the history of the world: If Bayern lose this tie, it will be one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Champions League.
Robin van Persie is the biggest absence for Manchester United, and he might be out for the rest of the season. Chris Smalling is likely out, while Jonny Evans has a calf problem, though he did train on Monday. There are questions over the fitness of Antonio Valencia and Rafael, leaving a potentially massive hole at right back. Phil Jones will have to deputize in that spot, leaving United thin in the center of defense. Also, Patrice Evra is suspended, so they're down to bare bones everywhere along the back. Juan Mata is cup tied.
Bayern Munich suffered a blow this weekend when Thiago picked up a knee injury over the weekend. They still have plenty of depth in midfield, though, and will lean heavily on Toni Kroos and Thomas Müller in his absence. Diego Contento and Holger Badstuber are also out, while Dante is suspended.
Projected lineups (left to right)
These teams have lots of depth, though not in the same way. Bayern have too many world class players to fit onto the pitch together, while United have about 20 above average but not quite world class players. Both sets of lineups are hard to project.
Wayne Rooney vs. Philipp Lahm - Whether Wayne Rooney plays up top or in the hole, he's likely to see a lot of Philipp Lahm in the center of midfield. And while there's a possibility that Lahm could return to right back, Pep Guardiola has shown faith in Rafinha in big matches, while the absences of Dante and Thiago have left Bayern a bit thinner than usual in midfield, since Javi Martinez could step into Dante's central defense spot. Lahm's been a great outlet to help Bayern control possession and he's an excellent technical tackler, but he can't muscle people off the ball like Martinez can. Lahm's ability (or lack thereof) to prevent Rooney from picking up the ball and advancing it will be key defensively for Bayern.
Arjen Robben vs. Alex Buttner - Alexander Buttner's quotes about matching up against Arjen Robben were terrifying, if you're a United fan. "I've never played against him before and I haven't watched videos or anything like that to study him," said Buttner, "but I know enough from what I've seen to know how he plays the game." That sounds really promising! If Buttner doesn't get destroyed repeatedly, it's an accomplishment.
Neutrals will be hoping for a solid performance from Manchester United to set up an interesting second leg, but is anyone banking on a win for them? Arsenal couldn't defeat Bayern at home and they've been a demonstrably better side than United all season. There's no reason to pick United, though it won't stop us from hoping they keep things interesting. 2-0 Bayern.