Union Berlin versus Bayern Munich: tthe small team from the East versus the global super institution.
Only in sport can a match-up that is so economically biased end in a draw. Bayern Munich paid for Lucas Hernandez almost double what Union Berlin has spent on all of their players, ever. Despite this unequal advantage for Bayern off the pitch, it wouldn’t be crazy to say that Union deserved to win the battle on the pitch.
A lost midfield battle
Bayern looked idealess and un-creative for a large part of the game. Bayern’s midfield duo, Leon Goretzka and Jamal Musiala, was outmuscled by Union’s Grischa Prömel and Sebastian Griesbeck. While the two Union men often intercepted and won back the ball, Goretzka and Musiala failed to help Bayern link up the defense and the midfield. As a result, Union was able to defend against a Bayern that relied on individual quality rather than intricate attacking play. It was not enough to keep a clean sheet, but it was enough to draw against Bayern.
A tired Bayern Munich
Hansi Flick’s Bayern is, understandably, extremely tired. Today, injury problems led Flick to start Jamal Musiala out of position, a situation in which the talented youngster struggled. The loss of Joshua Kimmich is so evident on the pitch that I believe Bayern are thinking of buying another midfielder in January.
Gone are the days when Flick’s revolution took Europe by storm and led Bayern to become the best team in the world. Bayern’s winning mentality has gotten them through this period in terms of results, but it’s been a tough couple of months. In the league, Bayern has let in as many goals as FC Köln and has looked extremely vulnerable without their star midfield talisman.
Crisis? Not by any means. But I am certain that Flick’s greatest challenge in his managerial career is to continue to achieve greatness with this Bayern team.
A resilient Union
Union, who I often view as the one of the last ‘fan-clubs’ in the modern game, displayed a massive banner, located on the long side, throughout the game with a clear message:
New formula - old “Fairness” ... for a fair/just allocation of TV money
It is a clear dig at the DFL distribution of the TV funds, which was decided last weekend. Without going into too much detail on the heavily debated topic, Union and other analysts have viewed the TV rights as unfair for the smaller clubs.
A clear message from everyone in the club which was made perfect as the visitors to the game was the team who gets the most money in the new DFL distribution deal.
I am so incredibly positively surprised by how well this team is playing on the pitch. As mentioned in the introduction, Union is a very small team with limited funds. The fact they survived their first-ever season in the league was a surprise. The fact that they are now in Europa League territory in their second season, is borderline shocking.
COVID-19 has impacted all sports teams, but I did think it would impact a small club like Union extra hard, as I thought they would rely on their fanatical support at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei.
Despite not spending much at all this transfer window, Union is now in 6th place and have only lost two games after their first eleven. Urs Fischer has found the perfect combination as has set up a team that is tough, athletic, and resilient. Their stable back-four gives the basis for his Union side who today played, at times, beautiful direct football.
It doesn’t matter that there were no fans and a recent bad TV deal. Union, the resilient club from the old East, shrugged off the odds against them as they took on a multi-million super institution and almost won.