Manchester United v Bayern Munich: Pep Guardiola warns Bayern that any complacency will end their Champions League reign
Germans’ dream of being first holders to retain trophy since 1990 at risk from repeat of last Bundesliga display, says coach
Tuesday 01 April 2014
The slogan on the Bayern Munich team bus parked outside their Salford hotel reads: “Mia San Mia”. It is a Bavarian phrase that means: “We are who we are.” Bayern Munich know exactly who they are. As for Manchester United, you are not so sure.
It says everything about Pep Guardiola’s attention to detail that the Bayern bus should be here at all, driven from Munich to the North-west just to make a 15-minute journey to Old Trafford tonight. Most teams would have hired one. Pulling into the hotel’s long driveway was a lorry from a Bavarian brewery, probably delivering something for after the final whistle.
You could gauge the mentality of Guardiola’s players when asking them about their memories of Old Trafford. Three years ago Manuel Neuer had produced an astonishing performance for Schalke in the Champions League semi-finals that brought Sir Alex Ferguson on to the pitch to congratulate the goalkeeper. And yet Neuer reflected that, however honoured he had been by Ferguson’s words, his overwhelming memory of the night was that Schalke had lost 4-1.
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The year before, in the 2010 quarter-finals, Bastian Schweinsteiger had been part of a Bayern Munich side that had conceded three goals in the opening 25 minutes to United. “It was a barrage from the home side, driven on by their fans,” he recalled.
Bayern, rallied by Arjen Robben, had recovered to score twice and go through on the away-goals rule. It had been an epic, momentous evening that most footballers would have remembered through a misty, alcoholic haze. Schweinsteiger said he was still irritated that Bayern had lost on the night.
A week ago, in Berlin, they had retained the Bundesliga title before March was out – the earliest it had ever been won. They dominate their league much as Manchester United did in 2000 and 2001, when they retained their title with furlongs to spare.
“The Rolex culture”, Roy Keane called it. United were happy to win domestically but, in the wake of their triumph in the 1999 European Cup final, they were drained of the motivation to win another.
Keane recalled a meeting with Bayern Munich two years after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had denied the German club in a final they had dominated. This time Bayern dominated and won. “They had gone forward since 1999,” Keane reflected. “We had not taken the next step, talking big but not delivering.”
Guardiola inherited a side that under Jupp Heynckes had won every competition it entered last season. There seemed to be nowhere for Bayern to go other than Keane’s Rolexland.
That is why the World Club Championship in Morocco mattered, that is why winning the Bundesliga in record time mattered. It is why becoming the first club to retain the European Cup since Milan in 1990 matters.
On Saturday, Bayern had celebrated their title at the Allianz Arena with a sloppy 3-3 draw against Hoffenheim. It was a slip they could afford but, 48 hours on, it still irked their coach. “I tell you this; if we play like we did against Hoffenheim, Manchester United will win so decisively that we will have no chance in the second leg,” he said. “But the thing is the players know and they understand it without me having to mention it.”
It was a game that would be Thiago Alcantara’s last of the season. Holding midfielders rarely make headlines but the knee injury he sustained against Hoffenheim was described by Thomas Müller as a “catastrophe”.
At Franz-Josef Strauss Airport, the club’s chief executive, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, stated that Toni Kroos, who had played wonderfully in the 2-0 win at Arsenal, would “definitely wear the Bayern shirt next season”. Guardiola was less certain. There is still the odd shadow over the Allianz Arena.
Not least were the pictures, published in Bild – the German equivalent of The Sun – of the cell Uli Hoeness, their disgraced president, will occupy in Landsberg Prison when be begins a three-and-a-half year sentence for tax fraud. The Worsley Marriott offers better beds.
Not even Bayern always get their way. “You think we won the Bundesliga without being tested?” said Guardiola. “How far do you think these players had to run, how hard do you think they had to work? It is never, ever easy to win.”
That is a lesson David Moyes, a man who like Guardiola inherited a club that had cruised to the championship, is learning match by match, defeat by defeat.
During his year-long sabbatical in New York, the former Barcelona coach met Ferguson and you would have longed to be a waiter hovering with the bottle of claret.
Asked directly if Ferguson had offered him the succession at Old Trafford, Guardiola smiled: “He invited me to a super restaurant, we had a great time but Sir Alex spoke very quickly. I had a job to understand him, perhaps that’s why I didn’t understand if I was offered the job.”
He did, however, think it ridiculous to blame Ferguson for the crisis that has reappeared whenever a major football power has shown up at Old Trafford: “Whatever the past, you have to win games. Manchester United dominated Europe under Sir Alex Ferguson. For a time he made it the best club in the world.”
As the two biggest football institutions in northern Europe, there are deep links between Munich and Manchester, and Guardiola and his players did a better job of talking up United than Moyes had done in his own press conference.
Neuer reminded the room that Chelsea had finished sixth in the Premier League two years ago and won the European Cup in Munich, in the most improbable of circumstances. Guardiola referred to their 5-0 win against Bayer Leverkusen and their recovery against Olympiakos which allowed Moyes to look the Stretford End in the eye for the first time this season.
Schweinsteiger wondered what better motivation United could have than to knock out the reigning champions in a game that could reshape their season.
Bayern Munich not only know who they are, they understand who Manchester United might be.
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Key confrontations at Old Trafford
Büttner v Robben
Dutch left-back Alexander Büttner, 25, has his work cut out against his vastly more experienced compatriot Arjen Robben, who has been integral to Bayern’s stunning form.
The stylish winger, capped 73 times by his country, has scored 10 goals, assisted in five others and created 40 chances for Pep Guardiola’s side in the Bundesliga this season.
Fellaini v Kroos
Marouane Fellaini, who has struggled to justify his £27.5m price tag since joining United, will be trying to contain one of the most dynamic midfielders in Europe in Toni Kroos.
The 24-year-old has been heavily linked to a move to Old Trafford, although Bayern insist the player, whose current contract ends in next year, will not be leaving the club.
Kagawa v Lahm
Shinji Kagawa, having done well against Villa on Saturday, will attempt to get beyond the defensive covering of Philipp Lahm.
Lahm has been described by Guardiola as “the most intelligent player I have ever trained in my career” and the versatile 30-year-old, who has won 105 caps for Germany, has played at right-back or in holding role in midfield this season.
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