"Deutscher Meister wird nur der FCB," the German equivalent of “Only Bayern will be German champions," rang out from the home crowd at Allianz Arena, after the champions flexed their muscles in a dominant 3-0 win against Union Berlin. The perception that theirs is best team in the country was back among the Bayern faithful, and Sunday's performance showed once again that Bayern can deliver when it really matters.
Julian Nagelsmann’s men had picked up just nine points from a possible 18 since the season’s restart, and their struggles continued with a 3-2 loss to Borussia Monchengladbach last Saturday that blew the title race wide open.
“It’s about living up to our own standards”, Müller told DAZN after Sunday's game. “We were no longer top of the table before the game started today. Accordingly, something had to happen. And I think that was a good first step.”
Müller’s important role
Six minutes into the game however, it looked like it might be yet another frustrating evening for the veteran. His first touch let him down after a cross from Erix Maxim Choupo-Moting just needed an easy tap-in. The chance went to waste, resulting in a big sigh around the ground. It was in Bayern’s 1-1 draw at Union Berlin in September that Müller was on the bench for the very first time this season. Unfortunately for the 33-year old, that's become a familiar feeling.
In last week’s defeat to Gladbach, Müller was hauled off after just 16 minutes by Nagelsmann, with Bayern a goal behind and down to 10 men after Dayot Upamecano’s early red card. Long gone seemed the days when former Bayern coach Louis van Gaal coined the now legendary saying: "Thomas Müller will always play!"
Nevertheless, the current coach backed Müller before the game and doubled down afterwards: “It was a very good performance. I would have liked him to score a goal, but he gave two assists," Nagelsmann said "I was as very pleased with him. Even when he's not playing, he's an important contact for me. He behaves in the spirit of the team and has shown a top performance."
Musiala going from strength to strength
And he wasn’t the only Bayern player to deliver. Jamal Musiala, celebrating his 20th birthday, continued his impressive form. He’s Bayern’s top scorer in the league this season with 11 goals and seven assists, drawing early comparisons to footballing greats. "Jamal has the kind of moves you see from Leo Messi. He will become absolutely world class, if he isn’t already,” said Nagelsmann in the week.
Musiala has gone from strength to strength since becoming the youngest player to feature for the club in the Bundesliga. In June 2020, he was substituted on for Thomas Müller in the 88th minute against Freiburg. Almost three years later, the two combined for the 3-0 against Union, rubbishing the notion they couldn’t play together. Müller created a yard of space on the right with a heavy-looking touch before finding Musiala in enough room to tuck home comfortably.
The game was decided before halftime, with Bayern taking their foot off the gas in an uneventful second half. Nagelsmann would have been very happy to bring on Sadio Mane for Coman afer 65 minutes. The Senegalese star had been out since before the World Cup at the end of last year.
While the three points for Bayern were most important, the intensity of their display may mean just as much and send a warning to the other competitors for the title.
Union without a chance
As for Union, the game was a hard reality check. “Die Eisernen” hadn’t lost a competitive game this year and were looking to extend their league run to seven straight games without a defeat. Union coach Urs Fischer said before the game: “Bayern are angry now, and that’s when they are most dangerous." Little did he know how right he would be. After the game, one sentence of his summed up the entire match: "The analysis is easy today. Bayern was just far better." Union have never beaten Bayern in eight attempts now, drawing three and losing five.
But that didn't prevent their fans from belting out their own chant, "Only Union will be German Champions," after the game. Given the dominant performance from Bayern, that seems to be a very ambitious target. For the time being, Bayern are back on top, tied on points with Borussia Dortmund and eying their 11th title in a row.
Edited by: Matt Pearson