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Pep Guardiola: Seminal Moment at the Etihad

ORCHESTRATING: Pep conducting from the sidelines

ORCHESTRATING: Pep conducting from the sidelines

Although he’s yet to sit in the home dugout, the Etihad Stadium is a place which holds a great deal of significance to City’s new manager.

Pep Guardiola’s visit with Bayern Munich in October 2013 provided the first seminal moment in his three years at the club and a painful one for supporters of his future side.

He may have played down the importance of the 3-1 victory in his post-match interview, stating that his team still had “lots to improve” but the expression on his face, and the overheard words he gave to a friend on the phone before the press conference, told another story… “What an exhibition!”

It’s no exaggeration to say that this was the night the previous season’s treble-winners truly became “his” Bayern and the way was paved for a period of unprecedented success.

In the words of Bayern president and former striker Uli Hoeness, quoted in Martí Perarnau’s Pep Confidential book

For 80 minutes we played perfect football – the best football I’ve seen in my life.

THE BEAST: Negredo gave Bayern something to think about late on

As manager of FC Barcelona, Pep enjoyed a litany of touchstone victories, including Champions League finals and league deciders but one perhaps stood out above the rest.

Their 5-0 victory over Real Madrid at the Camp Nou in 2010 rocked world football and was hailed as a tactical masterclass orchestrated by a man emerging as one of the greatest coaches of his generation.

Following his year-long sabbatical in New York after four silverware-spangled years at his beloved Barcelona, Guardiola returned to management at Bayern Munich and the rest is history… three league titles out of three and arguably the best football the Bundesliga has ever seen.

Nothing worth having comes easy though, as they say, and it unsurprisingly took Guardiola a couple of months to fully implement all of the nuances of his complex tactical ideas.

Bayern got off to a solid if unspectacular start to the 2013/14 season, losing in the DFL Supercup 4-2 to Borussia Dortmund but winning all but one of their opening seven league games.

For any other manager, this would probably qualify as a dream start but in Pep’s eyes, with his stratospheric standards, the level of performance was lacking and he was far from satisfied.

 

ARRIVAL: Guardiola emerges from the tunnel in Manchester

That was until the European champions paid a visit to Manchester for Match Day Two of the UEFA Champions League on 2 October 2013.

City were unbeaten at home under their new boss Manuel Pellegrini and had blown Manchester United away 4-1 in their last game at the Etihad Stadium but that night they came up against a Bayern side which, like Pep’s Barcelona in that El Clasico six years early, left football appreciators the world over open-mouthed in awe.

Although Bayern had edged a tricky encounter against Wolfsburg 1-0 in their previous match, they arrived in England without the steely, unshakable confidence so readily associated with the Bayern colours and crest.

If they were feeling the pressure of critics sharpening their knives, they certainly didn’t show it as they got off to a free-flowing start, asphyxiating their hosts with long spells of possession, completely nullifying City’s attacking quintet of Yaya Toure, Jesus Navas, Samir Nasir, Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko.

Franck Ribery gave Guardiola’s men the lead in the seventh minute with a long range strike and it was at this point that the away side began producing a truly breath-taking display of possession-based football.

Until the 80th minute, when City, inspired by substitute Alvaro Negredo, enjoyed their only spell of domination in a game which had long ago been settled (and after Jerome Boateng’s red card), Bayern’s vice-like grip on the game was total as the German giants showed that they fully assimilated Pep’s tactical masterplan, moving the ball aggressively with the team’s shape shifting across the pitch as one fluid organism.

WALKING OUT: Seconds before kick-off

At one stage, Munich put together 94 consecutive passes in a spell of possession which lasted three minutes – it would be the enduring passage of play of the night and a demonstration to Guardiola that he would be able to replicate his successes in Spain on a new frontier with a new group of players.

Henry Winter, then of the Telegraph, wrote: “This was total football at speed from Bayern Munich, who have even moved up a gear from their Champions League-winning pomp.

Bayern’s new coach, Pep Guardiola, continues to reinvent the game, introducing even greater fluidity, variety and venom into the champions of Europe. This was a masterclass for an hour.

The tempo of Bayern was frightening at times, with Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger ending the game with 95% pass accuracy, Ribery and Robben giving the opposition full-backs with torturous evenings as they by turns stretched the pitch wide before ducking inside, their needle point incisions even dragging the home wingers into defensive actions in the middle of the field, disrupting City’s shape and providing opening after opening for the visitors.

Thomas Muller was deployed as the nominal striker but he played more like the False 9 Pep brought back into the footballing discourse with Lionel Messi at Barcelona and it was he who doubled the advantage five minutes after the interval.

Nine minutes later, the game was over as a contest when Hart couldn’t keep out Robben’s dipping strike at his near post – from there, out came the rondos and the olés.

Negredo came on as a substitute and initiated that late rally from the home team with his 80th minute strike but the sporting, widespread applause from the home supporters at the full-time whistle told you that the world had just witnessed something very special indeed from Guardiola and his team.

CELEBRATE: Bayern players clearly enjoying themselves at this point

That was 101 days until Pep’s Bayern reign and laid the foundations for a period of success and beautiful football never before witnessed at the Allianz Arena.

Although they were dignified in defeat, it’s fair to say that City supporters will relish Pep’s next seminal moment at the Etihad Stadium rather more!

It wasn’t all plain sailing for Pep from there on in, however, as City did take a measure of revenge on Bayern on Match Day Six of the group stages.

With Guardiola’s side 2-0 up and cruising after 12 minutes thanks to goals from Muller and Gotze, Pellegrini’s men produced a stunning fight-back, coming back to win 3-2.

It was a defeat that left the man in the home dugout fuming in spite of the fact that the Bavarians held on to clinch top spot – a hint at just how high Pep’s standards are.

Watch Guardiola's unveiling live on www.mancity.com this Sunday from 2.30pm and hear his first words as Manchester City boss.

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