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Three observations from Bayern Munich’s comfortable 1-0 win over Manchester United

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Manchester United were dominated so hard, you wouldn’t guess that their EPL campaign begins in less than a week.

MUNICH, GERMANY - AUGUST 05: Javi Martinez of Bayern Muenchen celebrates after scoring his team`s first goal with team mates during the friendly match between Bayern Muenchen and Manchester United at Allianz Arena on August 5, 2018 in Munich, Germany.
MUNICH, GERMANY - AUGUST 05: Javi Martinez of Bayern Muenchen celebrates after scoring his team`s first goal with team mates during the friendly match between Bayern Muenchen and Manchester United at Allianz Arena on August 5, 2018 in Munich, Germany.
(Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)

Gegenpressing is back, but it’s rusty

Remember the good old days of Pep Guardiola, when teams couldn’t complete two passes before they got dispossessed? Well, it seems that Niko Kovac is bringing that style back to Bayern Munich. Against Manchester United, Bayern dominated possession but they also counter-pressed very hard when they lost it, limiting the Red Devils to almost no time on the ball.

The execution of the strategy wasn’t perfect, especially in the first half, but Bayern virtually shut down United’s lame attack with minimal effort. United midfielders were swarmed and dispossessed before they could make a single pass, leaving United’s attackers with barely any service. Of course, the Bavarians made some mistakes allowing the likes of Marcus Rashford and Alexis Sanchez to launch a few quick counters, but these were snuffed out and tended to be few and far between.

Overall, if Kovac gets his gegenpressing system up and running, Bayern could be a fearsome prospect for any possession-based team to face.

Bayern Munich created chances but couldn’t finish

What else is new? There were at least three good moments the Bavarians didn’t capitalize on. One was a sitter in front of goal that Franck Ribery made a complete mess of (more on him later), and the other two were by Leon Goretzka. The former Schalke midfilder first put a perfectly delivered pass by Coman into the side netting, and next he failed to get a touch on a ball sent in from Rafinha that was just a foot away from goal.

Kovac will need to rack his brains to address this issue. It’s becoming a very serious problem for the Bavarians.

Niklas Süle is ready

Step aside Jerome Boateng, there’s a new defender in town, and his name is Niklas Süle. Süle was like clockwork in the defense, doing such a great job that Manuel Neuer must have been bored to tears. The big German, still only 22 years of age, mind you, had Alexis Sanchez and Marcus Rashford in his pockets the whole game — denying them the space to run into and keeping them at bay with his amazing speed and strength.

He was confident on the ball, made great runs and passes, and was generally a rock in the backline. Süle may be young, but he has earned his place in Bayern Munich’s starting lineup.

Miscellaneous observations

  • Ribery’s lack of pace and tendency to get easily dispossessed is becoming a serious liability to the team.
  • Arjen Robben ran a lot, but otherwise didn’t do much.
  • Thiago Alcantara is so elegant that you can almost hear the classical music every time he’s on the ball.
  • Serge Gnabry at striker? Worthwhile experiment, but it didn’t really work.
  • While everyone expected him to move away from possession-based football, Niko Kovac seems to have done anything but. His tactics against Manchester United resembled Pep’s gameplan more than anything Jupp Heynckes or Jurgen Klopp has ever done. Is Kovac going to subvert everyone’s expectations, or will this all change when the real games come along?