Champions League tactical preview: Manchester United v Bayer Leverkusen

David Moyes will be hoping to show he can cut it in Europe. Photo: PA

It's the start of a new era at Old Trafford, with scepticism growing around David Moyes ability against the Premier League's other top sides, it will only intensify further with his limited experience in Europe's premier competition. His only previous taste of the Champions League was Everton's play-off exit to Manuel Pellegrini's Villarreal in 2005, after they pipped, then European champions Liverpool to fourth spot in the league.

That Liverpool team contained Sami Hyypiä, who scored in the lead up to Istanbul and was involved in the defeat of Bayer Leverkusen en route - the Finn is now manager of the German side after spending last season in joint control with Sascha Lewandowski due to league rules that stipulated he couldn't be in sole charge having not completed his coaching badges at the time.

Both managers are making their full Champions League debuts and whilst the teams in the group are stronger than many in the English press have led to believe, only Shakhtar Donetsk boss Mircea Lucescu has coached at this level. This gives the two rookies a little room when it comes to making decisions throughout the matches, any signs of weaknesses may not be immediately capitalised upon by their opposite number.

Lars Bender will be looking to upset the United midfield. Credit:

Counter Attack

The two sides are more than adept on the counter, with United at home the onus will be on them to control possession. The differences are the way in which they are likely to break - Leverkusen preferring to move centrally and The Red Devils more effective on the right hand side. United's wide players tend to look to provide crosses into the box, whilst Leverkusen's wingers try to link up with the front-man and create shooting opportunities.


Neither coach is used to juggling the demands of major competitions; in their opening four matches Hyypiä made just one change at right-back. This past weekend Lars Bender, Giulio Donati and Ömer Toprak were all rested from his usual 4-3-3 system. Moyes squad options in Manchester as opposed to Everton have been well documented, his 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 hybrid, is likely to look familiar from the teams that have started to date, perhaps with Marouane Fellaini making his full debut. Despite the criticism of the fee paid in the transfer market, the Belgian's physicality is the perfect partner for Michael Carrick's deep-lying creativity.

Shinji Kagawa looks set to play a part on Tuesday night. Credit: PA

Asian Persuasion

Shinji Kagawa's lack of game time has mystified supporters and his former manager Jürgen Klopp, but Moyes has put it down to his involvement with the Japanese national team, citing long flights and many appearances. The former Borussia Dortmund attacker would be perfect behind Robin Van Persie in this match, having been the best player in the Bundesliga and scoring the only goal of the game when he faced them last just 20 months ago. He missed the Crystal Palace match on Saturday with mild Flu.The sale of André Schürrle to Chelsea saw Leverkusen fend off Premiership opposition for the signing of Son Heung-Min. The South Korean's agent revealed that talks had taken place with United, but the German outfit 'made the best impression'. He scored 12 league goals for Hamburg last season, which was more than the player he replaced.

Aerial Ability

With the two sides strengths in aerial positions set-pieces will play an important part, added to the fact United's only two goals in the last three matches have been from dead ball situations. The teams strikers Stefan Kiessling and Van Persie are excellent at heading the ball and occupying two central defenders on their own, it's a battle between last year's Premiership and Bundesliga leading scorers. Kießling's first of a brace against Wolfsburg was from exactly that kind of scenario.

Key battles

Evra v Sam - Occupying the Leighton Baines role, Patrice Evra has been effective from the left-hand side, whether surging into the box or providing an early cross without committing the opposing defender. The Frenchman may have to time his runs more cleverly as Sydney Sam is in the form of his career. The winger has six goals in as many matches this season in all competitions as he has relished the increased expectation following Schürrle's exit.

Paul Wilkes is a freelance European football writer specialising in Spanish players and tactics, he is also the Editor of LaLigaUK