Bayern Munich smashed hapless Bayer Leverkusen to the pretty tune of 4-0, with Sadio Mané turning in a vintage Bayern Mané performance — one goal allowed, one goal disallowed — after a period of recent struggles. He was deployed once again on the left wing, and after the game coach Julian Nagelsmann clarified the thinking in his selection.
“We played him on the left in the last few games to give him a bit more rhythm,” Nagelsmann said in the post-match (via @iMiaSanMia). “He scored a goal today and played well.”
Despite being a revelation for Liverpool last season playing centrally, Mané is perhaps a little more comfortable on the wings at Bayern — where he can command the attention of defenders without perhaps being quite so responsible for as much of the intricate tip-tap interplay Bayern like to employ in the box.
It’s a shift from the earlier parts of the season, when Mané was charged with leading the line and occasionally drifting out from central positions rather than into them. But it’s also let the Senegalese superstar concentrate on that role while leaving the free-flowing positional interchanges to a trio of players who have a little bit more established chemistry between them — Thomas Müller, Jamal Musiala, and Leroy Sané. Against Leverkusen, it instantly paid off, Musiala threading Sané through for the opening goal inside five minutes.
Perhaps this was a glimpse into Nagelsmann’s efforts to simplify and streamline his admittedly intricate system.
Also of note was Julian Nagelsmann’s substitutions: Serge Gnabry replaced Mané in the 65th minute but slotted right into his role on the left wing. Later, he moved into Leroy Sané’s role on the right and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting came in on the left.
Bayern will need to rotate their starting lineups heavily this season, and maybe the idea moving forward won’t be to try ever front four combination under the sun, but settle into one or two. One might imagine youngster Mathys Tel playing in that left wing role as well — as he’s already done this season.
Der Klassiker and Borussia Dortmund are next on tap in the Bundesliga. Mané had a wonderful game today, and if this is the beginnings of a new rhythm for him at Bayern, the timing could scarcely be better!