While Thomas Tuchel sympathises with Erik ten Hag, the under-fire Manchester United boss should not expect any favours from Bayern Munich on Tuesday as they look to respond to Saturday’s chastening defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt.
Bayern have already confirmed qualification for the UEFA Champions League’s last 16, having secured top spot in Group A back on matchday four.
United, by contrast, approach Tuesday’s game bottom of the group. They will only join Bayern in the round of 16 if they win and Copenhagen and Galatasaray draw in Group A’s other fixture.
A humiliating group-stage exit would dial up the pressure even further on Ten Hag, who oversaw a dismal 3-0 Premier League defeat to Bournemouth on Saturday.
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Asked about the criticism Ten Hag is facing at Monday’s pre-match press conference, Tuchel said: “I empathise with all my colleagues. Sometimes it’s difficult and challenging.
“I know what it’s like to manage big clubs. Sometimes you feel that a club is not developing as quickly as you would like.
“We’ll have to muster a lot of energy tomorrow to succeed here. I’m convinced that United want to fight back. A game in Manchester is always a big game, it’s a big club that electrifies people. They’re always a dangerous team.
“They have a certain aura about them, it’s part of the club’s DNA that they can survive difficult moments.
“They have ups and downs in their game, and they’ve conceded a lot of goals recently, but in strong moments, you can see what they’re really capable of.”
— FC Bayern Munich (@FCBayernEN) December 11, 2023
Though Bayern have nothing to play for at Old Trafford, the prospect of them fielding a weakened team appears remote as Tuchel demands a response to Saturday’s dire 5-1 defeat to Eintracht, which allowed Bayer Leverkusen to move four points clear at the top of the Bundesliga.
Asked how seriously Bayern will take the game, Tuchel said: “I understand some people thought that against Copenhagen [a 0-0 draw on matchday five] it looked like we weren’t throwing everything into it, but when you sign for Bayern or United, you sign to give 100 per cent every day.
“When you wear the Bayern Munich jersey, you behave like champions, there’s no other way. We have high expectations, even if we are always under pressure.
“We were brutally punished with an extraordinary result, which hurts a lot, but it has to be said that this was our first defeat in the league.
“I have great confidence that a reaction will now follow. We addressed the mistakes very directly, and tomorrow we have the opportunity to show a reaction on one of the biggest stages in football.”
Tuchel refused to give much away regarding his plans for the game, though he did suggest England captain Harry Kane will start, saying: “Every fan wants Harry to play in their team.
“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 he will be very happy to play here tomorrow. It’s a great story that we were able to bring the England captain, your centre-forward, to Germany.”
We know yesterday wasn’t good enough and full focus now on Tuesday to show the right reaction 💪 pic.twitter.com/CZLO7wbaKT
— Harry Kane (@HKane) December 10, 2023