Manchester United’s first Champions League campaign under Erik ten Hag commences on Wednesday as they travel to the Allianz Arena to take on Bayern Munich in a heavyweight Group A clash.
After defending their Bundesliga title in the strangest of circumstances last season, the Bavarians have got their bid to extend their domestic dominance to a 12th straight season off to a flyer.
With Harry Kane firing on all cylinders in his early days in Germany, the perennial champions won their first three league games by a combined score of 9-2 to enter the international break as the joint-leaders.
Their 100% top-flight start ended abruptly at the weekend as Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen held them to an action-packed 2-2 draw in Saturday’s top-table six-pointer.
Kane broke the deadlock in that meeting and will be looking to add to his ever-growing Bayern tally against familiar foes, with Man Utd rolling into town looking to pick up the slack after another dismal weekend.
High-flying Brighton & Hove Albion stunned Old Trafford into silence last Saturday, dismantling Ten Hag’s side 3-1 in their backyard en route to halting United’s 31-match unbeaten streak on home soil (W27, D4).
Brighton’s dominant display at the Theatre of Dreams condemned the Red Devils to their third defeat in the first five Premier League games this season – a feat they’ve never experienced in the competition’s history.
Munich is not the best place to seek redemption, but Man United cannot afford another humiliation amid more off-field controversies involving star winger Antony.
They’ve barely had time to recover from a long-running Mason Greenwood saga before the Brazilian forward made the Old Trafford chiefs feel a sense of deja vu.
It’s hard to imagine Bayern erasing the memories of the iconic 1999 Champions League final they lost to Man United in stoppage time. But they’ve excelled against this opposition in the 21st century.
The Bundesliga giants have knocked the Red Devils out of the Champions League in 2010 and 2015, but this is the first time they’ve been paired together in the group stage since 2001.
That’s good news for the Bavarians, given their formidable record at this juncture, having won their last 25 home games in the competition’s group phase, including three in 2022/23 by an aggregate score of 9-0.
Thomas Tuchel’s side are unbeaten in their last 34 matches in the Champions League group stage (W31, D4), which bodes well for the German manager’s effort to maintain his personal streak against United.
Tuchel has never lost a managerial meeting with Man Utd on home soil (W3, D2), and the visitors’ long-term struggle outside Old Trafford can only inspire more confidence in the German’s corner.
After returning just 36% of their Premier League points total away from home last season, the Red Devils’ travel sickness has translated into the new campaign.
Not only have Ten Hag’s men lost both away games this season to bitter rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, but they succumbed to two-goal margins on both occasions.
It’s hard to expect United to find their feet in Munich, where they’ve lost their last three Champions League outings since a 1-1 draw in their only group-stage encounter against Bayern in the 21st century in back in 2001.
In addition to Manuel Neuer and Raphael Guerreiro, who have yet to feature for Bayern this season due to injuries, Tuchel will be without Kingsley Coman for this fixture.
The list of absentees in the travelling camp is far worse, with Antony and Jadon Sancho suspended from the squad while Tyrell Malacia, Luke Shaw, Raphael Varane and Mason Mount are struggling with injuries.
Bayern Munich potential starting line-up:
(4-2-3-1): Sven Ulrich; Alphonso Davies, Dayot Upamecano, Kim Min-jae, Konrad Laimer; Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka; Leroy Sane, Jamal Musiala, Serge Gnabry; Harry Kane.
Manchester United potential starting line-up:
(4-2-3-1): Andre Onana; Sergio Reguilon, Victor Lindelof, Lisandro Martinez, Aaron Wan-Bissaka; Casemiro, Scott McTominay; Christian Eriksen, Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes; Rasmus Hojlund.
We Say: Bayern Munich 3-1 Manchester United
Man United are in deep waters, and Bayern are not a side you’d want to meet in these circumstances, as we back the Germans to give Ten Hag more reason to scratch his head.
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