Comment: After putting Manchester City to the sword, Pep Guardiola will not rest until he has fully converted Bayern Munich
It was not enough for the ball to find the net. The wheel must turn a certain way
And the worrying thing is, under Pep Guardiola this Bayern Munich team is a work in progress. Gott in Himmel. We are told Guardiola is already a competent German speaker. You wonder if he has come across the Teutonic equivalent of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. To the talking points already yielded in the opening weeks of the Bundesliga season, where not all are enamoured with the Spaniard’s refinements despite the undefeated start, Guardiola introduced for the first time in a competitive match the tactical innovation rife in Iberia, the false nine.
So, from the land of Gerd Müller, of Uwe Seeler, of Jürgen Klinsmann, of Miroslav Klose, the champions of Germany and of Europe set up at the Etihad without a centre forward. If we see the evolution of the game as a relentlessly rising curve, then it might be argued that in the swatting aside of Barcelona at the semi-final stage of the Champions League last season Bayern put themselves at the head of it. Few who witnessed this evisceration would disagree with that.
The deal that took Guardiola to Munich was concluded long before the Champions League pot was in the Allianz vault. The Barça model sat at the apotheosis of the game, and Guardiola was the high priest that delivered it. He was heading to Munich in the spirit of the missionary, his goal to spread the Barça message across Bavaria. He was not to know the game was about to move on, the code he had devised was about to be cracked. The club that he had pledged to take to the next level, got there without him.
Perhaps that explains his persistent remonstrating. Despite the early goal gifted by Joe Hart’s error, Guardiola was a malcontent on the touchline, angrily calling all and sundry to account for not moving the ball as instructed. To everybody else the Munich display appeared a masterclass in physical and mental oppression. This was City’s worst nightmare, an emphatic demonstration of the inferiority complex Manuel Pellegrini was brought in to dispel.
City, of course, come galloping to the piece from the opposite end of the spectrum. This is the epoch of the arrivistes, newly enriched ambitious types seeking to plant their standard on territory formerly the domain of clubs like Bayern, an established member of Europe’s landed gentry. City are not interested in serving time. Fast-tracked by inexhaustible wealth they are desperate to bolt status to power. There is only one way to do that.
City’s failure to progress from the group stage at the first two attempts was thought to be a consequence of inexperience, a lack of familiarity with the environment, though how a team so expensively assembled and gifted might fit that description has never been satisfactorily explained. The first meeting with Bayern at the Etihad two years ago ended 2-0 to City, though they were already doomed by then.
Here they were mute from the off, tossed about by the red tide washing over them. Hart was a graphic example of the malaise, failing to deal with a speculative shot from Franck Ribéry. So reduced as England’s first-choice goalkeeper has he become Hart presents an awkward problem for the watching Roy Hodgson, pondering the climax to his World Cup qualifying campaign in the next fortnight.
If Hart was uncertain, City were further undone by the curious omission of Yaya Touré. He was selected in the team but was just not in the game, not on the same pitch as Bayern anyway. At his best Touré is among the finest to have graced the English scene, a buccaneering, often unanswerable blade. Tonight he could neither get on the ball nor defend it. City were effectively a man down, and fortunate to be only a goal down at the break. Their one significant contribution came from Micah Richards, who smoked Toni Kroos with a tackle that would have anaesthetised a rhino.
In the space formerly filled by super Marios Gomez and Mandzukic red shirts took their turn to run City into the ground. Those incisive pincers out wide, Ribéry and Arjen Robben, scorer of Bayern’s third, were relentless in their butchery After the defeat to Aston Villa, City’s Chilean enabler sought solace in the performance, insisting that his team had played with the requisite confidence and belief. You wonder how this experience might set them back.
After Robben’s firecracker had filleted Hart on his near post the men of Bavaria behind the same goal chorused, “It’s coming home, football’s coming home”. Is there no end to German invention? Pep was not happy, however. Clapping and pointing he screamed his displeasure. It is not enough that the ball find its way into the opponents’ net three times without reply. The wheel must turn a certain way.
It is to be hoped the removal of Bastian Schweinsteiger with 15 minutes to go was an act of mercy, not a judgement of the ultimate symbol of Bavarian supremacy. None epitomised this ruthless eclipse of Manchester’s blue moon more than he did. The subsequent withdrawal of Robben suggested Guardiola had already moved on to the next match.
Mario Götze slipped into the action almost unnoticed, a powerful reminder that Bayern did this to City without either of their big-money buys in the summer. Alvaro Negredo’s late strike and the sending-off of Jerome Boeteng were irritants. Nothing more.
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