Audi Cup provides stiff competition for United

By Online Editorial

Allianz Arena

Stephen Butcher flew to Munich, the home of 21 times German Champions and perennial underachievers in Europe, Bayern München, to watch this year’s Audi Cup.

He gives an exclusive match report and insight into the Premier League Champions’ summer preparation for defending their crown.

‘Football is a game played by twenty two players and won by Germans…more often when penalties are involved or so the saying goes. Indeed this was the case on Thursday night as Bayern and Manchester United ground out a 0-0 draw in the Final of the Audi Cup at the Allianz Arena, celebrating Audi’s 100th year of operation.

Your correspondent was at the previous evening’s semi-final to watch United take on Argentina’s reigning club champions, Boca Juniors; the team where Maradona plied his trade for three years.

I was fortunate enough to visit La Bombonera – home of the Boca Juniors, club from the La Boca barrio in Buenos Aires – last August in the closing stages of their season for a home match in their intimidating boiling cauldron if antiquated home of a stadium.

The Allianz Arena is the complete antithesis of Boca Juniors’ home. Past favourite Bayern moments are too many to list here for reasons of sensitivity as much as anything to mein hosts, but the post-match dinner at the Mear country club after Keano’s winner in the group stages in the 90’s, with the München clan complete with Franz Beckenbauer’s post dinner speech is up there, but this pre-season visit was most enjoyable and memorable too.

On arrival to the dulcet tunes of “and if you are a City fan…” we took up our seats adjacent to the palatial Executive dining area that many in Munich corporate life enjoy. Down below the hundred or so contingent of Boca fans contrived to make more noise than the United tour contingent. The latter were represented by Cheshire Reds, Eccles Reds and most notably Poland’s MUSC with their flag proudly fluttering on one side of the ground.

Determined to make their voices heard off the pitch Boca Juniors well past the three quarter mark of their season struggled to really make an impression on the pitch. Juan Román Riquelme once of Barca looked impressive but frankly I hardly recognised any player from my visit one year ago.

One goes on tour to see new players and pay ones’ respect to old and see the odd magic moment. On the 7th minute one was treated to Park botching a clear cut chance not for the first or last time one suspects. After twenty minutes the 61,000 in attendance were treated to a peach of a free kick from Anderson finding the back of the net to record his first goal in 75 games.

Valencia, who I mistook for Evra, was very active down the right hand side and when presented with a yard or so of space notched up a gear to eventually find the back of the net early in the second half. It was all about Valencia combining with Rooney. The latter who played the whole 90 minutes to the surprise of all except himself returned fire to the Argentinians.

Carrick and Anderson looked sprightly .In the course of the balance of the work out on came old boys Giggs and Scholes ,Fletcher, and Berbatov. There was one flash of Berbatov brilliance in front of goal, which set the imagination racing -will this be the year when it works for the £30.75m Bulgarian striker? As one had sported “Believe” on his T shirt on the EZY flight and believe Manchester United supporters must..

Insua did grab one back for the Boca and indeed it looked like they might grab a leveller based on the balance of second half play but fortunately we were not treated to penalties this time to decide the outcome. By this time the home crowd were willing the final whistle on so that their heroes, Ribery and co. could take to the field against an ever dilapidated Milan side.

Ronaldinho looks like he might have just a few tricks left whereas Zambrotta and Nesta should surely join Maldini in retirement ASAP. Ribery meanwhile was not to appear as he is suffering from an injury whilst Madrid make their last gasp attempts to break the bank and capture him. On the subject of injury of course Hargreaves previously scheduled to join his team-mates here was also a no show.

Bayern looked very sharp complete with their expensive acquisitions from Stuggart and Zenith and overpowered an increasingly disinterested Milan side eventually scoring four goals to the Italians one.

The outcome of the Final the following evening looked to be open but football as you know is a game won by Germans. Congratulations to Bayern on hosting and eventually winning on penalties and Audi for sponsoring.

It’s a far cry from Peterborough away last August and for that matter my first European friendly away at Hamburg in ’76. That time bottles rained down on United supporters, this proved to be a much more civilised affair to say the least. Let’s hope for more of the same if the two are drawn together in this season’s Champions League.


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