Dortmund, Bayern outline challenge for United

Posted by Mark Payne

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty ImagesIt's been five years since Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United won the Champions League. As United plans for their next bid, they will need to adjust to the strengths of the emerging German powers.

Bayern Munich fans are probably feeling quite happy this morning. Borussia Dortmund followers are no doubt similarly cheerful. Their teams have just eviscerated two of the biggest clubs in world football. Neither was a freak result, and both were genuine shellackings.

As Europe admires the tremendous performances of Germany's top two, England's new champion Manchester United assess the challenge that awaits.

It is no secret the objective at United is to win the European Cup again. Preferably several times. "We should have done better over the years," is a common refrain from Sir Alex Ferguson. There are few things he refuses to discuss, but United’s loss to Barcelona in the 2011 Champions League final is one. This season’s defeat to Real Madrid is another. This competition affects the man at the core.

"The easiest way to win a title is to sabotage your rivals," Real Madrid manager said Jose Mourinho in one of his Champions League interviews this week. He was referring to the habit big clubs have of buying the best players from smaller, but successful sides. Dortmund's Mario Goetze is famously headed for Bayern Munich at the end of this season and Manchester United purchased Shinji Kagawa from Dortmund last summer.

"The better you get the more the other teams want your players," says Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp, who has experienced all this before.

The man most hotly tipped to move this season is Robert Lewandowski. His name has been mentioned around transfer blogs all season and, after scoring four goals against Madrid on Wednesday, he will be sought by all those at the top table, including Manchester United. He will probably cost twice as much now, too.

Although this is undoubtedly a gifted group of Dortmund players, it is the manager who must take much of the credit. "Every year we lost one brilliant player and we get better and better and better.” Klopp has indicted that he is not going anywhere, and that is great news for Dortmund, maybe not for their rivals.

The victories of both German clubs were heavily reliant on energy and physicality. The Bundesliga teams were stronger, they ran more and they were patient and clinical. Some of this is a reflection of a good day at the office, some of it reflects the playing culture.

Barcelona's endless possession football did them no favours against Bayern, who simply stood off them when they got the ball and let them play themselves into trouble. Bayern’s discipline was superb and Barca could not break them down.

Although nobody at Old Trafford would ever admit it publicly, United have spent the last couple of years sharpening up their play to match Barcelona. Regular United watchers this term can attest to seeing the team put together sequences of 20 or 30 passes regularly.

United usually dominate possession in the games they play but possess the ability to counterattack, too. Their sheer dominance of the Premier League is testament to the success of their current system and the players they have in it. It is no coincidence that Michael Carrick has just enjoyed the best two seasons of his career.

Unfortunately, just as United were catching up to the Spanish giants -- and they were surely the better team against Madrid -- another problem has arisen. United might have the beating of Real Madrid or Barcelona in next season's competition, but will they have the physicality and tempo to deal with Germany’s top two?

And another thing -- with Pep Guardiola arriving at Bayern in June, they are only going to get stronger. Winning the Champions League has never looked so daunting.

Follow Mark on Twitter @markjpayne

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