If there were some who questioned what Pep Guardiola could do to refine the champions, the answer came as a Thomas Müller-inspired Bayern out-muscled and out-passed the home side
Well, there's something you don't see every day. If there were some chastening lessons for Manchester City in the course of one of the more overwhelming 3-1 home defeats you are likely to see, there is perhaps some consolation in both the extent and the nature of Bayern's superiority in a decisive opening hour.
Frankly there were lessons here for everyone as Bayern produced an alluringly controlled exhibition of football from the near-future, tactically and technically beyond the reach of City's Champions League work-in-progress, despite a spirited late rally.
It was a pointed kind of superiority too. There were those who questioned what Pep Guardiola could do to refine this team, but the answer was here in flashes. Bayern's midfield, headed by Thomas Müller in a roving lone striker role, was irresistible at times. This was Bayern, but a little more so, Bayern with added swarm.
If the success under Jupp Heynckes was based around the imposing rhythms of that thrummingly high-spec midfield, this was never likely to be diluted under Guardiola, who in his wonder years at Barcelona finessed the idea that football is now a sport of midfielders, the best teams comprised almost entirely of a collection of strolling mini-generals.
This is the thing about this Bayern team: they do not just want to score more goals than you, they want to out-run and out-pass you through the centre of the pitch. The opposition are not simply beaten: they are Bayerned – and City were at times entirely Bayerned as for long periods the German champions played a de facto eight-man midfield, with both full-backs imperiously pushed on and the revolving bank of red shirts pushed right up on to City's defence.
It is a relentless style City themselves have employed successfully at times, most recently in this stadium against Manchester United. With that memory still fresh the contrast was stark here as Bayern's midfield did to City's midfield what City's midfield had done to United's, depriving them of the ball, moving into space with a fearsomely well-grooved sense of purpose, and generally out-muscling a midfield that had looked pretty much un-musclable against the English champions two weeks ago.
This was City's fate in the first half, with Yaya Touré in particular bypassed. Touré remains a coveted presence in the Premier League, a great clanking Iron Man of a midfielder, whether employed in his galloping forward-destroyer mode or as a box-to-box all-rounder. Here was an opportunity for the Premier League's own Gulliver to stand up to the Bayern machine, and perhaps to prey on a slightly less tigerish midfield deprived of Javi Martinez.
Fat chance. It was startling to see the Ivorian so obviously uncomfortable, lurching sideways in search of the ball, repeatedly harried in possession and outmanoeuvred by Philipp Lahm, who was again exceptional in his converted central role. Plus, of course, there was a Guardiola-flavoured surprise further forward as Müller – attacking midfielder, scruffy-haired wanderer and self-coined "Space Investigator" – played as a central striker. Albeit, as ever with Müller this was a quirkily nuanced version, some way short of the flailing medieval target-man more familiar on these shores, and not quite a false nine either.
At first Müller dropped deep, wandering on to the flanks and at times simply mooching around in an offside position, skinny-legged and awkward, like a jogger accidentally strayed on to the pitch. Later, though, he produced some moments of classy orthodox centre-forward play, emerging as the outstanding player on the pitch and, as ever, a standard bearer for brain over brawn at the highest level.
It was one of Müller's sudden bursts of activity that helped to create the space that led to Bayern's first goal. With Gaël Clichy drawn inside by Müller's spin, Rafinha had time to find Franck Ribéry with a crossfield pass. His shot was well struck but Hart should have saved it. Bayern don't need a goal's start, but here they were presented with a floppy-wristed goalkeeping welcome basket.
City drew breath amid a familiar sense of red-shirted suffocation, accompanied, as if to rub it in, by repeated chidings from Guardiola on the sidelines, Bayern's manager demanding an ever higher passing tempo, a more palpable sense of supremacy. To their credit City resisted, gaining something of a foothold in the match either side of half time and pulling a goal back near the end though Alvaro Negredo.
It was Müller who killed the game on 56 minutes with a horribly simple goal. On this occasion it was the space between Clichy's ears that the Raumdeuter chose to investigate, making a diagonal run past City's left-back, who simply watched him go, and nudging the simplest of long passes past Hart and into the net. For City there was no disgrace in losing to a Bayern team who may or may not retain their European crown, but who looked at the Etihad like champions whose strengths have, if anything, been sharpened and refined.