Although the first leg of the Champions League match between Bayern Munich and Manchester United did not play out the way that many had suspected, the play on the field showed that Bayern has bought into new coach Pep Guardiola‘s teachings. The match ended 1-1, giving Man U hope, and a couple of the best chances in the first half were for the English side. However, disregarding the result and observing the nuances on the field shows why Bayern Munich has become such a dominant team.
The first thing displayed on the field by Bayern is that they stay busy. A lineup with Thomas Müller is often more active, regardless of if everyone is moving. The player up top tries to occupy two center backs, but still drifts away from the center of the field. The object is not to be marked, so players continuously swap positions. The midfielders can be found all over the field.
With this, Bayern wins possession and makes quick passes. They attempt to form triangles or rectangles around the defense to outnumber them and break them down. They are also not afraid to use keeper Manuel Neuer in this structure since he is one of the best distributors from the back. Another note regarding possession is that Guardiola has been very public about taking long shots, thinking they are simply wasted time on the ball.
The activity means they try to quickly win back possession. They pressure high and it seems to be different players attacking the opponent, which was evident in the first half of the match. Bayern also seems to not worry about the counter attack, although Manchester United was able to take advantage of that on occasion. Defense is stressed from front to back, not just in the back.
The results of the match may not have been what Bayern wanted, but the execution was often on the right track. It could be argued that Guardiola employed too many defensive, passing midfielders and should have started Mario Mandzukic sooner to attack aging central defenders. Players to run at that back line and a target to convert those runs may have been better. Despite an odd lineup choice and only coming away with a draw, the style of the play was clearly a representation of Guardiola’s tactical preference.