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‘It’s why he’ll always play’

Van Gaal thrilled by Müller’s textbook strike

If things always worked out as you planned them, Thomas Müller would have half-a-dozen goals this term. In a theoretically perfect world, the 21-year-old would have put away a gilt-edged opportunity in Kaiserslautern, and an equally inviting chance early on against Bremen. The gulf between theory and practice showed again on 56 minutes of Wednesday’s meeting with AS Roma, as the top scorer at the World Cup smacked a close-range effort towards the bottom corner of the visitors’ net. It looked a certain goal, but in reality, keeper Julio Sergio pulled out a fabulous reaction save, and the Munich tabloids gleefully continued totting up the number of minutes Müller had gone without scoring.

The counting exercise soon ended after a moment when theory and practice merged to perfection. With just over ten minutes remaining, Müller struck a sweet volley with the outside of his boot from the right edge of the Roma box, the ball describing a perfect arc as it curled into the bottom left corner of the net. To the spectators in the main stand, who observed Müller’s swing of the boot from behind, the outcome was immediately clear. “I was on my feet the instant the ball left his foot, because you could see it was going in,” said director of sport Christian Nerlinger.