Owen Hargreaves, Interview, FC Bayern

Owen Hargreaves: Bayern are favourites at home

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Owen Hargreaves made the step up from youth to first-team football with FC Bayern. At the age of 20, he won the Champions League with FCB in May 2001 in the final against Valencia. After 10 successful years in Munich, the former England international moved to Manchester United. Ahead of the meeting between his two former clubs on Wednesday (21:00 CEST) in the group stage of Europe's premier club competition, we spoke with the current TV pundit.

Interview with Owen Hargreaves

FC Bayern vs. Manchester United – two big names in Europe. What was the reaction to the draw in England?
"When Bayern and Manchester United were drawn as the first two names, it looked hefty at first. It became immediately clear that it would be a tough group. I think everyone knows that Bayern are currently in better form than United. But at the end of the day, both teams are the favourites in the group and I expect them both to qualify for the next round."

Owen Hargreaves, Veron, FC Bayern
Owen Hargreaves knows the fixture from personal experience: In the 2001/02 season he faced Man Utd twice in the group stage with Bayern.

It's the battle of the German and the English record champions. What do the two clubs have in common?
"They're the most successful teams in their country. Germany and England are two big football nations. The best things are obviously their many fans but also their history, all the great players and coaches who have worked there. The two clubs are very similar. When I was looking for a new challenge after 10 years at Bayern Munich, the only club I wanted to go to was Manchester United. The prestige, the history, that success – I wanted to be a part of that, just as I was at Bayern previously."

From the outside FC Bayern looks huge, but inside it's like a very close family.

Owen Hargreaves

And what differentiates them?
"Bayern are a huge club, but when I'm travelling around the world and people talk to me about football, the majority are Manchester United fans. The English clubs have a bigger reach thanks the worldwide marketing of the Premier League. As a result, United are even more noticed internationally. Bayern, in contrast, stand out through the family feel. Sure, players and coaches change over the years, but when I come to Säbener Straße, I still see a lot of people who were there 10 years ago. From the outside FC Bayern looks huge, but inside it's like a very close family."

Hargreaves Champions League winner 2001
"A great squad": In his very first season as a pro, Hargreaves lifted the famous trophy with Bayern.

You played against Man Utd twice with Bayern in the Champions League, both draws. Will it be that close again this time?
"Bayern are certainly favourites at home, especially after signing Harry Kane. But United are obviously still a threat. They've got a quality attack: Marcus Rashford is a great counter-attacking player, Bruno Fernandes plays brilliant balls in behind, so United have a lot of chances. However, if Bayern are in their normal form, I expect them to win the match at home."

As a TV pundit you know the Premier League very well. How do you rate Man Utd this season?
"The plan in Manchester is to be back competing at the top in the Premier League. It's not been an ideal start to the season, though. They lost the first two away games at Tottenham and Arsenal, and it doesn't get any easier now playing Bayern away. But United also had some problems at the start of last season and then went on a great run."

FC Bayern Legends testimonial Pizarro
Among legends: At the testimonial for his former teammate Claudio Pizarro in September 2022, Hargreaves (bottom row far right) pulled on the Bayern jersey again.

Matchday 1 suits Bayern, as they've won their last 19 opening matches in the Champions League.
"Winning the first game in the Champions League is obviously incredibly important – and your home games. And when you start against probably the toughest opponent in the group, a win is even more important. But the standards are so high at Bayern that they want to win every game. We saw that last season, when they got through the group with a perfect record."

Does a run like that have any bearing on Wednesday's match?
"It might be special for the fans and the stats lovers, but at the end of the day there were different players and a different coach on the pitch back then. It's not in the foreground for the current team. First and foremost it's about winning the match at home. If the run continues as a result, then obviously that's nice too."

Owen Hargreaves Champions League winner 2008
Hargreaves also crowned his time at Manchester United with victory in the Champions League in 2008.

With your Champions League triumph in 2001, you also lived down the bitter final defeat to Man Utd in 1999 to some extent. What was your experience of that match?
"I was in the stadium in Barcelona and can still remember the match clearly. We sat in our training gear in the stands because we'd travelled there from a tournament at Feyenoord with the U19s. It was mad. We shouted so much during the match that we had no voice afterwards. Bayern actually played a lot better but somehow lost at the end. We just couldn't believe it. It was probably one of the best Champions League games of all time. Bayer had a great squad back then. It's so hard to reach a final, so to do it again two years later was a massive achievement."

Before the ball rolls again, a prediction from you: how will the final table in Group A look?
"Bayern will be first, Manchester United second, Galatasaray third and then FC Copenhagen."

Bayern warmed up for the start of the Champions League with a riveting 2-2 draw against Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Friday:

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