A penny for the thoughts of Sadio Mane, as he watched, from the flat he shares with a colleague while house-hunting in Bavaria, the events at Old Trafford on Monday.
The last time he played in a Liverpool-United fixture, he brilliantly set up one goal and scored another in a 4-0 victory. That was only in April, recent enough for his absence from Merseyside to be felt poignantly on a night United comfortably beat Liverpool.
The day before United’s galvanising 2-1 win, Bayern Munich had played Bochum, who like United, spent the weekend at the bottom of their division. It turned into quite a rout, although Bayern’s 7-0 triumph was only by a small margin their biggest win of the short season so far.
They have racked up 15 goals in the opening three league games, 20 in their four competitive matches of 2022/23. Mane already has a handsome stake in this exhibition of firepower. He is averaging better than a goal every 90 minutes for the club he joined from Liverpool in June.
Mane’s move, for a little over €35 million, was one he sought, wanting a fresh challenge and leaving, without rancour, a club where he was loved and respected. He is only 30 and among the top five candidates for this year’s Ballon d’Or.
The destination made sense, with Bayern preparing to say farewell to Robert Lewandowski, Mane looking for a club with Champions League-winning ambitions and geared to the sort of attacking energy he was used to at Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
Scan the data and Bayern and Liverpool mirror one another in their aggression: So far this term, Liverpool have commanded possession in their league outings – 70 per cent on average per game – and their appetite for goals, with an average of over 17 shots per match. Bayern’s tendency is 67 per cent of the ball; they have been firing in 23 shots per fixture.
But filter the statistics, and bigger differences emerge, some of them too stark to be explained by the relative strength of Premier League defences compared with those of mid- and lower-table Bundesliga opposition.
Liverpool have scored four times in a Premier League that so far shows Klopp’s poorest start to a season since he became their manager in 2015. All those shots have yielded just four goals in three league games, none of them victories. The collective Liverpool radar is a little awry: just over four efforts on target per game. Mane is meanwhile playing for a team who put nearly half of all their shots in the right place.
These are early days but a nostalgia for Mane, who over six years collected a winners medal in every possible competition with Liverpool, is easily felt.
No doubting the quality and long-term future of the striker Liverpool signed in the summer of his departure, 23-year-old Darwin Nunez, but the Uruguayan has already had to interrupt his early momentum – three goals in competitive games – because of the suspension, for a hot-tempered butt on Crystal Palace’s Joachim Andersen that kept him out of the United game, a 2-1 defeat, and removes him from contention against Bournemouth on Saturday.
Nunez had previously proved a good man to turn to when Liverpool needed to recover from falling behind, a habit that started developing towards the end of their sapping, 63-game campaign of 2021-22 and has not been corrected.
Gallery: Eintracht Frankfurt 1 Bayern Munich 6
In the chase for the quadruple last spring, Mane struck the winning goal after the second leg of the Champions League semi-final at Villarreal had Liverpool trailing 2-0 at half-time.
Thanks to Mane, who struck the winner after Liverpool had gone 1-0 down against Aston Villa in his penultimate Premier League outing and the equaliser when Wolves went ahead in his last, Liverpool took their chase for the title deep into the last day.
He was the leader of Liverpool’s trademark pressing, too, the vigorous harasser of opposition goalkeepers. Ask Villarreal’s Geronimo Rulli or Manchester City’s Zack Steffen, pickpocketed en route to last season’s FA Cup success. David De Gea was among the happiest United players on Monday to face a Liverpool line-up without Mane in it, to see Mohamed Salah orphaned of his old ally.
Julian Nagelsmann, the Bayern manager who has watched Mane open his account in Germany with a headed goal, two left-foot finishes and a right-footed penalty, cited Klopp when he celebrated the impact the Senegal star has made in Munich. “Klopp used to say Sadio improved the club and the team from day one. He’s been the same here.”