Step forward Jupp Heynckes. After the announcement earlier in the week that Pep Guardiola would be the new FC Bayern München manager next season, the club, and the Bundesliga for that matter, have been caught up in a frenzy of excitement and anticipation. The spotlight shift from the now to the future is certainly warranted but as is typical of the club, and arguably further vindication of Pep's decision, Bayern have made sure to look after their own, stating quite publicly that anything but the title as a leaving present for Heynckes would be unacceptable.
So the second half of Bayern München's Bundesliga season started as the first half began, at least so far as their opponents were concerned. Arjen Robben, who said after the pre-season friendly against SpVgg Unterhaching that he "expected to be back in the starting eleven" come Saturday, found himself warming the bench. The Dutchman's time at the club appears to be nearing its end and I am not sure whether Pep would disagree either. Other changes including a rare start for Daniel van Buyten and the return of Mario Mandzukic and Thomas Müller respectively.
Bayern were slow to start, which was a credit to both Fürth's defence as much as Bayern's sluggish use of possession. Müller put a header just wide of the post but it was almost as if everyone did have their mind on Pep and the potential of next season. Heynckes stood on the edge of his technical area, defiantly reminding them with the implication of his stance that he was still here and they still had a job to do. Mike Büskens must have been delighted that his side had avoided the cardinal sin of conceding earlier against Bayern in the Allianz as his side stuck to their task very well.
Fürth's goalkeeper Wolfgang Hesl was then called into action. He first made a superb reflex save to deny Mario Mandzukic but moments later, the Croatian benefited from a poor piece of goalkeeping to score his tenth of the season as Hesl failed to keep out his half-volley at the near post. Bayern then started to go up a gear as Müller fired over before he turned provider, only for Mandzukic to miss from six yards. It was to be a brief change of gear from the home side as the half-time whistle arrived with Mandzukic's goal putting a gloss on an otherwise far from convincing 45 minutes.
Despite leaving their opponents waiting on the pitch, Bayern didn't start the second half with the expected intent. Fürth reminded Bayern that it was only a one-goal game with a flash across the goal line but their inability to convert it was a reminder in itself that this is a side with only ten Bundesliga goals in 17 games. Fürth's lack of composure in front of goal is combined with their inconsistency to defend and Madnzukic soon found space to head home his and Bayern's second of the afternoon shortly after the hour mark.
The second goal reduced Fürth to solely focus on their defensive duties and allowed Arjen Robben and Xherdan Shaqiri the chance to come off the bench and for the former, potentially prove a point. Fürth substitute Ilir Azemi fired a low shot from range but Neuer had another afternoon of more spectator than spectacular. The same could be said for the ten players in front of him though, as Bayern completed a somewhat routine and yet disjointed victory. Not even Mario Gomez, who came on to make his 100th Bundesliga appearance, couldn't add to his tally of 66 goals.
After everything that has happened this week, Heynckes remained as professional, if not even a little taciturn in his post-match press conference. The traditional responses of the "opening game always being difficult", and "Fürth made it hard for us. They closed down the space and tried to play on the counter. We were not as flowing as we normally are but still had three good chances in the first half", were not suprising. When pressed about Guardiola and the season however, there was a mature and wary response from Heynckes. "As exciting as the news is surrounding a new manager, the players have behaved just as they have done in previous weeks. A league campaign is not a stroll and Fürth are a side that command more respect. We must look to win every game." In response to whether van Buyten is the centre-back solution, Heynckes indirectly replied in the negative saying, "Boateng hasn't been forgotten. I have 22 good players, not just eleven."
The march looks set to continue and the next side to challenge the imperious Bayern München will be VfB Stuttgart next Sunday, the 27th January 2013 at 17.30 CET.
Bayern München: Neuer - Lahm, van Buyten, Dante, Alaba - Martinez, Schweinsteiger - Ribery, Kroos (70' Robben), Müller (70' Shaqiri) - Mandzukic (85' Gomez)
Greuther Fürth: Hesl - Zimmermann, Kleine, Sobiech, Baba - Pekovic, Fürstner - Sararer (87' Klaus), Petsos, Stieber (90' Park) - Nöthe (67' Azemi)
Goals: 1-0 Mandzukic (26'), 2-0 Mandzukic (61')
Referee: Markus Schmidt