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‘You’re unbelievable’

Fans help consign final defeat to history

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“I don’t get over these things that quickly,” said Louis van Gaal, clearly still in a rueful frame of mind on the squad’s return to Munich. Deep disappointment at missing out on the treble was still written on the players’ faces. Cookie hearts bearing the Bavarian battle cry Mia san mia were no substitute for the trophy. Any smiles were wan and forced.

Some of the stars may not have been looking forward to the motorcade from the airport to Marienplatz in the city centre. After all, it had been planned as a victory parade. Just two hours later, the mood had been transformed. The same players were laughing, joking, and even rediscovering a sense of pride, as the motorcade inched its way through crowded streets towards Marienplatz. With every passing metre, or so it seemed, the general disposition lightened.

Van Gaal, suddenly all smiles, waved to the crowds and shook hands. Suddenly, there was no difference between Sunday’s parade and the joyous championship celebrations of two weeks ago. Sometimes, events can move at dramatic speed.

“I thought I was dead this morning, but you’re my gladioli. Unbelievable. We’re alive again,” the coach told the massed Bayern fans from the Town Hall balcony a short time later. The players were equally moved by the reaction of what Van Gaal called “the best fans in the world".

Rummenigge promises trophies

Arjen Robben was overwhelmed. “Obviously, we’re down. But when the fans cheer us like this, you’ve got to smile. It goes to show what we’ve achieved. I’ve only been here a year, but this is the best club in Europe." Skipper Mark van Bommel could hardly believe his eyes either. “It's hard to imagine what it would have been like if we’d won it. There’s more going on here than in Milan.”