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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Man United have to beat the odds and Bayern Munich to avoid Champions League elimination
MANCHESTER, England: The odds are against Manchester United when the three-time European Cup winners battle to avoid elimination from the Champions League.
United face Bayern Munich at Old Trafford on Tuesday and need to end the German giant’s record 39-game unbeaten run in the group stages to have any chance of advancing to the knockout rounds.
But even that might not be enough, as Erik ten Hag’s team sit on the bottom of Group A and also need a draw between Copenhagen and Galatasaray.
“What I know is I never think of a negative scenario. We think positive, we know what to do, we have to win to stay in Europe, it’s about that,” Ten Hag said on Monday. “We will prepare the team with that feeling, with that belief. We have shown in the last weeks when we are at our best we can do it.”
Bayern coach Thomas Tuchel does not disagree.
“It’s part of the club’s DNA that they can survive difficult moments,” Tuchel said. “In strong moments, you can see what they’re really capable of. The stadium creates special moments. It will be a big challenge for us.”
Consistency has been the biggest issue for United. That was perfectly illustrated last week when United produced one of their best performances of the season to beat Chelsea 2-1 midweek, but then lost at home to Bournemouth 3-0, prompting loud jeers from fans inside Old Trafford.
Alongside Ten Hag at a news conference ahead of the final group game against Bayern, midfielder Scott McTominay could not come up with an explanation for their wildly varying form.
He did, however, insist the players were behind the manager after recent reports of locker room unrest and a decade of hiring and firing coaches since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
“It is the players’ responsibility, first and foremost. The players know that as well,” McTominay said. “It’s not just a case, like with some of the other managers, where it’s been a little bit toxic at times. The boys are firmly behind the manager. That’s the be all and end all and the way it will remain to stay.
“People can get lost in translation and carried away with what the players think and what they say behind closed doors. We just want to do well for the football club and it’s as simple as that.”
Even if United are eliminated from the Champions League, there is the possibility of the safety net of the Europa League if they can take third place in the group.
Either way, it’s unlikely Ten Hag would have expected to be in this position after leading the club back into the competition in his first season in charge.
United were drawn in what appeared to be a relatively straight forward group, needing to finish ahead of Danish club Copenhagen and Turkiye’s Galatasaray.
But they have managed to win just one of five games — beating Copenhagen 1-0 at home in October. Even then, it required a stoppage time penalty save from Andre Onana to secure the three points.
“Still, we have the opportunity. It’s not anymore in our hands, but we want to stay in Europe,” Ten Hag said.
Bayern are already guaranteed to top the group and continue a run that has seen it advance to the round of 16 every season since 2008.
They go into the game on the back of a shock 5-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday, which should provide Tuchel’s team with added motivation to win in Manchester.
“When you wear the Bayern Munich jersey, you behave like champions, there’s no other way,” Tuchel said. “We have high expectations, even if we are always under pressure.
“We expect a top performance from us. I hope we can match United’s enthusiasm and energy, which I’m sure they’ll bring to the game.”
Bayern’s biggest threat is likely to come from Harry Kane, who was repeatedly linked with a move to United before leaving Tottenham for Germany in the offseason.
He has been in outstanding form, scoring 22 times in 19 games.
“Every fan wants Harry to play in their team,” Tuchel said. “We’re very proud we were able to sign Harry. He’s a great character and a great role model, a terrific player. He scores a lot of goals and will be very happy to play here tomorrow.
“It’s a great story that we were able to bring the England captain, your center forward, to Germany.”
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