MUNICH, Germany, July 21 – For Pep Guardiola, it was Welcome Back. For Manchester City’s players, it was Welcome to the New World.
On a sultry night in Bavaria, the place he called home for three years and where he won seven trophies, the message Bayern Munich promoted with Guardiola back in town was one of a friendship and gratitude to the manager who gave them a new identity.
This might have been a friendly, a glamorous exhibition between two of Europe’s heavyweights, but in the world Guardiola inhabits, this was no gentle introduction to his new role. With arms waving and hands pointing, here was the first lesson City’s squad received into the way things will now be.
From the moment he emerged from the tunnel, turning left to the away dugout as opposed to his right as he had done most weeks since 2013, Guardiola was a coiled spring of intensity, studying and watching all that was unfolding in front of him before bursting into life.
He might have been in an environment that was all so familiar but the brisk manner in which he scuttled past the army of photographers who were waiting for him, gripping on to a bottle of water, showed Guardiola was not interested in sentiment.
There was one brief personal touch, as he gave a wave and a smile to the children who had gathered behind his dugout, but as soon as the game began, it was total focus.
Within 50 seconds, he was out of his seat, prowling his technical area and bellowing instructions to Aleksander Kolarov.
Possession is Guardiola’s mantra. Though the term ‘tiki-taka’ might be the one with which he is synonymous, Guardiola does not want to see his teams play pointless passes in areas where they cannot do damage, he wants them to be aggressive and get the ball forward quickly.
Giving the ball away cheaply, however, enrages him and the first City player to feel his wrath for one such slip was 18-year-old defender Tosin Adarabioyo, who in the 14th minute put a crossfield ball out of play.
On the touchline, Guardiola shook his head and then put his hands over his face before turning around to look at his coaching team in exasperation. For the remainder of the first half, Adarabioyo born in Manchester must have felt like he was receiving running commentary from his manager.
Bayern, with stars such as Philipp Lahm, Javi Martinez and Xabi Alonso in their starting line-up, looked fitter, sharper and slicker but, then again, that was only to be expected given the makeshift nature of the team Guardiola started.
The hosts could have been out of sight by half-time and it was only down to Willy Caballero that City were able to go into the interval all square. His first stop from David Alaba in the 17th minute was excellent, the two that followed from Julian Green in the 35th and 42nd minutes were even better.
Caballero, the No 2 keeper, did himself no harm with this performance nor did Oleksandr Zinchenko, one of a number of new signings to have arrived at City since Guardiola was appointed. The Ukraine international was bright in the 45 minutes he played and had City’s best chance.
A succession of substitutes in the second half disrupted the flow of the game and the tempo inevitably dipped late on, given the baking temperatures and the stage we are at in preparations for the new campaign.
Still, there was time for Bayern to score the only goal through Erdal Ozturk in the 76th minute, his shot beating Angus Gunn who had replaced Caballero, with the aid of slight deflection off Gael Clichy. Guardiola simply turned on his heels and went back to his seat for a moment.
But it wasn’t long before he was back, barking, gesticulating and studying. Guardiola, you see, finds it difficult to settle. That is what happens when you a searching for football perfection.