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On the surface, it may look like business as usual at Bayern Munich.
Four games into the Bundesliga season and they’re joint-top of the table. They would boast a perfect record if not for the 94th-minute penalty by Exequiel Palacios that earned Bayer Leverkusen a draw at the Allianz Arena last Friday night.
Harry Kane, the new £100million leading man at FC Hollywood, has hit the ground running with four goals in his first five games. Leroy Sane, with three goals so far, look in fine form.
But not everything is hunky dory at the German champions and United will be hoping to capitalise and claim a morale-boosting result in Munich.
Thomas Tuchel has endured a turbulent start to the season in charge of Bayern Munich
Harry Kane has hit the ground running in Germany with four goals in his opening five matches
But Bayern were forced to settle for a draw in their latest match against Bayer Leverkusen
There have been tensions between the coach Thomas Tuchel and the Bayern hierarchy over what was a shambolic summer transfer window by Bayern’s standards, even though they signed Kane.
Reports in Bild suggest that Tuchel was warned by Bayern’s executives during a secret meeting over the international break not to be so negative and emotional when talking about his team in public.
One such example came after Bayern’s 2-1 win over Borussia Monchengladbach just after the transfer deadline, when he complained ‘the squad is a bit thin, a bit small.’
But those on Bayern’s transfer committee – which comprised seven people – felt Tuchel was ‘erratic’ when it came to nailing down targets.
Tuchel apparently wanted Bayern to pursue Declan Rice to strengthen their midfield, but it would have been impossible to sign both £105m Rice and £100m Kane.
Bayern’s bosses felt a new striker should be the priority but by the time the Kane deal was done, they were left red-faced in their pursuit of Fulham defensive midfielder Joao Palhinha.
Poor Palhinha had his picture taken in Bayern kit ready for the big reveal, with a deal worth up to £70m agreed, before the move collapsed when Fulham couldn’t source a replacement.
The failure of that move and the sale of Ryan Gravenberch to Liverpool has left Tuchel with only three real options – Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka and Konrad Laimer – in that part of midfield and two slots to fill.
Bayern’s board, which includes CEO Jan-Christian Dreesen (right), have reportedly been left unhappy by Thomas Tuchel’s negativity
Joao Palhinha thought he’d secured a move from Fulham to Bayern – but the deal collapsed
Tuchel feels Bayern are light in defensive midfield and will be left relying on Joshua Kimmich (left) and Leon Goretzka (right) too much
In the final moments of the Monchengladbach game, Tuchel had to bring on Matthijs de Ligt as an emergency defensive midfielder.
The decision-making process by the transfer committee had taken too long when a deal for Palhinha could have been wrapped up earlier.
It wasn’t until the end of August, The Athletic reported, that chief executive Jan-Christian Dreesen and supervisory board member Karl-Heinz Rummenigge finally agreed with Tuchel that a midfielder was needed.
It’s an area United could seek to exploit if they can get their quick transitions right on Wednesday night though of course they have their own midfield woes.
Bayern also look light in defence, something Tuchel also commented on in public when he complained at having just six players to fill four positions.
The versatile Benjamin Pavard wanted out of Bayern and was linked with United before joining Inter Milan. Right-back Josip Stanisic went on loan to Bayer Leverkusen and Lucas Hernandez had earlier been sold to Paris Saint-Germain.
Tuchel apparently isn’t entirely convinced by Matthijs de Ligt but will have to play him
Tuchel had persuaded Trevoh Chalobah to move from Chelsea – but it wasn’t sanctioned
Joao Cancelo opted to sign for Barcelona over Bayern following dithering behind the scenes
Even though Tuchel had personally convinced Trevoh Chalobah to join Bayern, the club disapproved, likewise with Germany international Armel Bella-Kotchap.
Tuchel initially wanted to make permanent Joao Cancelo’s loan from Manchester City but Bayern’s dithering led to the Portuguese signing for Barcelona instead.
Bayern at least managed to sign Kim Min-Jae – another linked to United – earlier in the summer but their defensive options are less than ideal if injuries and suspensions mount up.
Tuchel is also not reportedly convinced of De Ligt’s capabilities though may be heavily reliant on him until at least January.
The club’s honorary president Uli Hoeness lamented ‘we used to laugh about deadline day’ in an interview with Suddeutsche Zeitung after the window shut.
The desperate scramble for defensive and midfield reinforcements left Bayern as the punchline and Tuchel’s grumpiness about what unfolded behind the scenes has cast a pall.
Kane doesn’t have the greatest goalscoring record against United, netting just five times
The England striker rues a missed chance when Tottenham faced United in April 2018
Not that Tuchel will be present on the touchline on Wednesday night as he serves a suspension having been sent to the stands during the second leg of Bayern’s chastening quarter-final against Manchester City last season.
They were crushed 3-0 by the eventual Champions League winners at the Etihad and ultimately exited 4-1 on aggregate. Tuchel was left furious when Aymeric Laporte heavily fouled Kingsley Coman late on.
But the real frustration was that Bayern, who expect to be top dogs in Europe every year, were so comprehensively inferior to City.
At least Kane looks like being the successor to the prolific Robert Lewandowski but his track record against United isn’t spectacular by any means.
The England captain has just five goals in 19 previous encounters, averaging a goal every 326.6 minutes.
Of all the sides Kane has faced five times or more, his worst goalscoring record is against United.
That record may count for nothing on Wednesday night and United would happily swap their current problems for Bayern’s.
But with strain behind the scenes and weakness in defence and midfield, if there’s ever a good time to face Bayern, this could well be it.
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