Harry Kane strolled out of the tunnel at Old Trafford alone last night and breathed in the cool Manchester air. This could have been home. This could have been his club.
Instead, Kane was dressed in the peculiar all-white training kit of Bayern Munich when he emerged to join his team-mates in preparation for tonight’s Champions League tie against Manchester United.
What would United give for Kane’s 22 goals and seven assists this season? Bayern boss Thomas Tuchel smiled when the question was put to him last night.
‘Every fan would wish for Harry Kane in their team,’ he said. ‘That’s why we are very proud we managed to seduce him and steal him from the Premier League and English football. The skipper of your national team, a big personality and big player. He’s a role model.
‘We are super-happy. We couldn’t be more happy that he’s with us. He gives us a lot of confidence and, of course, a lot of goals. He will play tomorrow and I know he will be happy to be here.’
Harry Kane will be hoping to cause nightmares for the Theatre of Dreams faithful – but this could have been his home
The striker was Erik ten Hag’s top summer target – and United were the striker’s first-choice club – but the deal was too difficult to get done
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United could have signed Kane when he left Tottenham in the summer. He was Erik ten Hag’s No1 transfer target and United were Kane’s first-choice club. But the deal was too difficult to get over the line due to the £120million transfer fee, Kane’s £500,000-a-week wages and the complexities of haggling with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy.
Instead, Kane went to Bavaria where he has set Bayern alight. United turned to Rasmus Hojlund and the Danish youngster is the joint top scorer in the Champions League, outscoring Kane 5-4.
But like so much with United right now, the facts do not tell the full story. Hojlund has yet to score in the Premier League, while Kane has 18 goals in the Bundesliga.
He has done exactly what Ten Hag hoped he would do at United — contributed goals from day one, set them up for his team-mates and provided the leadership you would expect from an England captain. Imagine where United would be right now if Kane was leading their line.
Hojlund was signed for his potential and has shown enough of it so far. He is one for the future. But managers live in the here and now and Ten Hag’s own future at Old Trafford is beginning to look increasingly shaky unless he can turn results around.
They have been particularly poor in Europe and United go into their final Group A tie tonight with their hopes hanging by a thread. The scenario is simple — they must beat runaway leaders Bayern to have any chance of going through to the knockout stage.
Easier said than done when you consider the Germans have not lost any of their last 39 matches in the group stage, going back to September 2017.
Even then, United have to rely on the other match between FC Copenhagen and Galatasaray ending in a draw. Otherwise, the best they can hope for is a place in the Europa League.
How Erik ten Hag could have done with Kane in his frontline… the ex-Spurs man has 22 goals in all competitions
Meanwhile, Rasmus Hojlund is still searching for a Premier League goal after his £72m move
There is always hope. Tuchel was Paris Saint-Germain coach when United pulled off the Miracle in Paris under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in 2019. Of course, Bayern were the opponents when Solskjaer fired United to Champions League glory at the Nou Camp in 1999.
‘That game in Barcelona comes to mind,’ said Tuchel. ‘I remember all the big chances. Then it was Fergie time, but we were all young then. Tomorrow, we’ll try to decide the game in our favour.’
Bayern will face a United side who have been erratic in Europe, scoring 12 goals in five games but conceding 14. No English club have ever shipped 15 or more in the group stage of the competition.
Tuchel is not writing them off yet, though. ‘A game in Manchester is always big,’ he added. ‘It’s a big club that electrifies people. They have ups and downs in their game and they’ve conceded a lot of goals recently, but we’re preparing for the best possible United.
‘They’re always dangerous. They have a certain aura about them. It’s part of the club’s DNA that they can survive difficult moments.’
Bayern come into the tie stung by suggestions from Galatasaray coach Okan Buruk that they might not be entirely motivated to win a meaningless game for them, and bruised by Saturday’s remarkable 5-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt.
Almost all the questions from German reporters to Tuchel and winger Jamal Musiala at Old Trafford last night were about Frankfurt, not United.
Kane will be fired up to perform and become the first Englishman ever to score at Old Trafford for a foreign team in Europe.
Thomas Tuchel remains respectful of Man United, claiming: ‘It’s part of the club’s DNA that they can survive difficult moments’
Bayern have not lost any of their last 39 group games and United have the unenviable task of trying to win
Could missing out on Kane be the factor that costs Ten Hag his job in the United hot seat?
He will want to add to the penalty he scored against United and assist for Leroy Sane at the Allianz Arena in September, when Bayern’s 4-3 win set the ball rolling on what has been a barmy group campaign for Ten Hag’s side.
The 30 year-old does not have any points to prove here, but he will want to show United what they might have had if they were willing to push a little bit harder.
He would have cost a lot of money but, then again, so will going out of the Champions League tonight.
For Ten Hag, the price of missing out on Kane may well turn out to be his job.