In 2001, Bayern played Manchester United in the quarterfinals of the Champions League and put them away expertly. Paulo Sergio's goal saw them win the first leg in Manchester while goals from Giovane Elber and Mehmet Scholl ended the tie. Ryan Giggs could only score a consolation in a 3-1 aggregate defeat. When Bayern went through to the semis against Real, hardly anyone realized that that semifinal would be Bayern München's last for nine years.
Bayern's return to the semifinal in 2010 was marked by a win against Manchester United following a lengthy period of darkness. Louis Van Gaal's revolution is perhaps an appropriate name for what happened that season. It took luck, possession and Arjen Robben to get to the final, but Bayern made it. They were almost knocked out of the group stage until they absolutely obliterated Juventus in the final match day to sneak in as second behind Bordeaux in their group. A Miroslav Klose offside goal gave them the lead against Fiorentina; away goals took them to the quarters.
And when Franck Ribery and Ivica Olic turned the tie around in Munich and later Robben scored the decider in Old Trafford, the Munich faithful knew that this would be a season they would remember for long; there was a feeling of destiny. Yet another final appearance was on the cards. On the day itself, two critical moments decided the match against Bayern.
In the second half, when Bayern was a goal down, Thomas Müller missed an absolutely glorious chance. Louis Van Gaal pointed this out later in his post match conference. The referee, everyone's favorite Englishman, Howard Webb, denied Bayern a penalty when they had begun to turn the screws; a clear Walter Samuel handball went unnoticed by the referee. Surprisingly, the press did not really talk about that moment. Of course Diego Milito's goals were what decided the final; but it decided the final for Inter rather than against Bayern.
When that generation picked up their medals, the fans knew this was that generation's first chance at the trophy. Many more would come. Nobody knew just how quickly they would come. Nobody knew they would come in two successive seasons. 2012 was the year every Bayern fan wants to forget. However, 2013 is the last chance for this generation. They are all at their peak. Highly similar to the situation in 2001, this generation might not come back stronger next season, because, let us be frank, it will be impossible after the kind of season they have had.
Pain is etched into the history of Bayern. The one day in which they celebrated the best moment of their history since 1976 was of in 2001. If any night compared, it was the one in 2010. Because it felt that Bayern no longer had to fear getting thrashed by the Milans and Chelseas of this world. Leaving Chelsea outside the equation, it was now Bayern's shot to take out everyone one by one. Juventus in 2009 was the first victim, United in 2010 the second, Real Madrid in 2012 the third, Arsenal FC the fourth, a stronger Juventus the fifth and FC Barcelona the sixth.
That day in 2010 laid the foundations for what followed; not for the failures, but rather for the successes en route to the final. Had Van Gaal and Bayern conquered Europe that day in 2010, they might have followed up in 2012. But pain, as mentioned before is etched through this club's history.
On this day, let us reminisce about that day in Madrid. Surely, many of us applauded when Bayern München walked beneath the gates into the European Cup final in 2010. The feelings associated with the final have perhaps diminished a slight bit since then considering the events of 2012; hence, let us remember how we all felt when the Bernabeu welcomed Bayern.
The first step is always the most difficult and most important.
And 22nd May 2010 was indeed the first step.