Bayern Munich inflicted a third straight defeat on Manchester United with a comprehensive victory in Munich.
With the game evenly poised, Andre Onana failed to keep out a relatively tame shot from Leroy Sane. It went from bad to worse for United, as just four minutes later Serge Gnabry doubled the lead after majestic work from Jamal Musiala.
Rasmus Hojlund scored his first goal for United in the 54th minute, but this was quickly followed by another Bayern goal, with Harry Kane converting from the penalty spot after a controversial handball decision.
Casemiro allowed United to dream of a remarkable rescue job after scoring with two minutes of normal time to go.
That hope was swiftly extinguished, with Mathys Tel putting the game beyond doubt – though Casemiro did score his second of the evening with seconds remaining to put a perhaps undeserved level of respectability on the scoreboard.
Daniel Taylor, Seb Stafford-Bloor, Thom Harris and Jeff Rueter analyse the key talking points
Onana’s ugly mistake
Unfortunately for Onana, his mistake for the first goal means he is obliged to spend some time grazing in the scapegoats’ paddock.
As mistakes go, it was an ugly one, too. Onana was signed by Manchester United for precisely the reason that David de Gea had become too accident-prone dealing with shots that should not trouble a goalkeeper at this level. So it’s unfortunate, to say the least, that De Gea’s replacement seems to have been temporarily afflicted by the same condition.
Perhaps it is typical of the way United’s season is shaping up, even at this early stage, that the man in question was widely credited as being the outstanding goalkeeper in this competition for Inter last season.
Onana is clearly an upgrade from De Gea when he has the ball at his feet. It just doesn’t feel so easy to push that line when he is waving an apologetic hand and his mistake for Leroy Sane’s goal has done so much to undermine his new team.
Why are United conceding so many goals?
If we are going to be generous, there are some mitigating factors. There are players injured. The list of absentees meant United had three goalkeepers, 35-year-old Jonny Evans and two teenagers on their bench. And yet, the thought still occurs: they have splurged an awful lot of money to be looking this vulnerable.
The most startling statistic? It was December 1978, under the management of Dave Sexton, that United last conceded three goals or more in three successive matches.
Perhaps we saw here why Ten Hag wanted to beef up midfield by bringing in Sofyan Amrabat, whose competitive courage will surely help once he has recovered from a back problem. But we also saw the latest evidence that Lisandro Martinez can lose opponents with a lack of positional discipline that would not be tolerated if it was Harry Maguire. We saw players running behind Casemiro and Christian Eriksen without too much to stop them.
United have not had a clean sheet since their opening game of the season against Wolverhampton Wanderers and their opponents on that occasion had 23 shots at goal, the second-highest figure recorded by an away side at Old Trafford since 2004.
No team can be this generous and expect to get away with it.
Harry Kane still finding his rhythm
Kane’s start at Bayern Munich has been largely successful. Another goal tonight, another bit of pressure eased.
One of the issues he’s having to overcome, though, is the lack of rhythm he has with some of these players. Rather than being the starting point or focus of all attacking moves, as he so often was at Tottenham, he’s having to learn how to insert himself into phases that build without him.
He’s like an actor who has joined a new cast in that respect; he doesn’t quite know his cues yet.
That showed early in a pass that he attempted to play to Leroy Sane. Instead of dropping the ball into Sane’s stride, he pushed it clumsily over the touchline. It was emblematic of the issues that reside beneath his healthy goals tally and it was not the only example of an uncertain touch or miscommunication.
But this is who he is currently. His first six weeks as a Bayern player has seen him operate as a No 9, rather than the 9-10 hybrid he really is and was bought to Germany to be. Positionally he may have appeared in deeper areas, but his actual contribution has been relatively narrow.
Tonight showed that much work is still to be done. But it also teased some future dynamics. Clearly, Bayern’s first goal was due to a goalkeeping mistake, but it was still encouraging to watch Kane’s part in it, and how Sane was able to use his centre-forward to fashion a shooting chance. The winger was also able to attack space created by Kane’s movement a couple of times across the evening and that was encouraging to see as well.
Small steps, certainly, but important ones all the same. It’s also not a coincidence that these flickers of understanding are generally occurring with Sane, as he’s the only other attacking player to have started all four Bundesliga games this season and the only Bayern forward to be both fit and in form. There is the semblance of a partnership between them and Kane and Sane both appear to be starting to profit from it.
Hojlund on an island
As the second half kicked off, United’s 2-0 deficit felt a thousand times more cavernous. There was little reason for confidence after their opening 45, struggling to threaten Sven Ulreich on one end while increasingly bending to Bayern’s will at the other.
The 49th minute provided a glimmer of hope — however brief it was — when Rasmus Hojlund opened his goalscoring account for the club. It wasn’t an easy finish, as the Denmark international received Marcus Rashford’s squared ball with both Bayern centre-backs in immediate proximity and a converging Konrad Laimer approaching with an outstretched leg.
A deflected finish scurried just beyond Ulreich’s diving frame, giving Hojlund and his new team’s supporters a rare reason to celebrate. Signed from Atalanta for an initial £64million, he’s struggled to make a swift impact in Manchester, opening himself and the club to criticisms that they would’ve been better off spending more to land Kane.
And yet, he’s hardly had chances afforded to him in order to better assess his fit. His goal tonight came with his 10th touch of the ball across 48 minutes of leading the line. Chief facilitator Bruno Fernandes seems especially unbothered to involve him: of his 31 pass attempts before Højlund’s goal, only two were directed toward his striker.
How bleak of a night was it for him? He managed more touches around the centre circle whenever play kicked off than he enjoyed in any other zone — Bayern’s box included.
While other positional peers may switch off with this little service, Hojlund remained engaged in United’s forward press. His movement was also sharp to open space for Rashford in particular, but he exited in the 81st minute with a meagre 17 touches for all of his effort. The only way Hojlund will ultimately live up to the expectations hoisted upon him will be to build a more robust goal return.
In order to do that, his teammates need to provide him with service.
Was it a penalty?
That just…isn’t a penalty in anyone’s mind.
The sweet spot the handball rule still needs to find is a place where the punishment fits the crime – where everyone watching accepts that a foul has actually been committed and in a way that is not just an accident of limbs and timing. Currently, it is nowhere near doing that and this was another one of those annoyingly technical ‘gotcha’ decisions that seem so wildly disproportionate to events on the pitch.
From such a short distance, arm position just cannot be too literal a factor.
United’s strong first line of pressure is built on wobbly foundations
Once again, just like on the weekend against Brighton, Manchester United’s pressing structure looked good. But then it completely collapsed.
This time, however, it was not about a tactical switch from the opposition, but a lack of concentration of their own.
Throughout a cagey first half an hour, both Rasmus Hojlund and Bruno Fernandes were energetic and intelligent, working hard to cover passing lanes and largely restricting Bayern to simple passes that were easily contained. Behind them, Marcus Rashford stuck to his task, earning vigorous applause from his teammates as he harried Konrad Laimer off the ball 16 minutes in, while Cristian Eriksen and Casemiro dealt with Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich with relative comfort. Lisandro Martinez was chasing Harry Kane into midfield whenever the Bayern striker dropped deep – United, like their opponents, were doing fine.
In truth, it was a first half lacking in real quality, until Onana spilled the ball into his net. With the second following four minutes later – conceding in flurries being a particular trait of United’s away games – heads dropped.
Simple passes out wide suddenly bypassed Rashford with ease, a lethargic Eriksen was skirted around time and time again, and energy levels plummeted.
United can generally compete in the middle, but a gulf in quality in both boxes continues to undermine their progress in the biggest games.
(Top photo: TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images)