The footballers at FC Bayern are used to being put on a podium at a very early stage of the season. That was the case last year. And also the year before. Actually, whenever the start of the new year is successful. The competition then has to make sure that they don’t fall behind in the fall. But the fact that your own coach is now taking part is new.

When Julian Nagelsmann talks about his team in these weeks, the same words are repeated over and over again. He emphasizes the “energy”, the “power”, the “spirit” in the dressing room, the “togetherness” – before every game, after every game. This will probably also be part of his standard repertoire before the duel with 1. FC Union this Saturday (3.30 p.m. / Sky), but first the 5-0 cup win at third division team Viktoria Köln on Wednesday had to be extensively appreciated .

Nagelsmann may find all of this so remarkable because it was very different just a few months ago. “The team is currently not comparable to the one at the end of last season,” says Nagelsmann. The one who failed in the Champions League quarter-finals at FC Villarreal because of an outsider and in the Bundesliga struggled to get to the finish – that is, to the title – without vigor and esprit.

The fact that FC Bayern now somehow shone in new splendor, although Robert Lewandowski was one of the guarantors of success, can be explained by the squad planning, which led to more competition and greater flexibility. Sport director Hasan Salihamidzic proved this summer that he has learned to negotiate quite well in the transfer market.

But Nagelsmann also seems to have drawn the right conclusions from last season. The coach, who is still young at 35, has reinvented himself, changed his management style, adapted to players who, due to their quality and experience, can and above all want to take on more responsibility than was the case at his previous stations Hoffenheim and Leipzig.

One or the other player who has been at the club for a long time may have remembered the time under Pep Guardiola, who also demanded a lot from his team and sometimes even overwhelmed them. Even then, FC Bayern often seemed flat in the decisive phase of the season. It was “not quantum physics” that he wanted to convey to his players, said Nagelsmann, but he had “reduced” his communication.

The rotation also seems to work well. Nagelsmann changed the team in seven positions in the cup in Cologne, but played with the same system as in the league – and like Bayern will probably also play at Union. Nagelsmann’s plan was for a few starting eleven debutants to be recommended for higher tasks on Wednesday. “The competitive situation is good, even if it’s not easy for me. But better than the other way around,” he said after the good performances by Ryan Gravenberch, Noussair Mazraoui and, above all, the performance of only 17-year-old Mathys Tel, whose goal reminded a little of Arjen Robben.

The old hands will probably return to the team on Saturday – it’s about the top of the table. After the draw against Gladbach, Nagelsmann doesn’t want to risk anything. He sees the mandatory task in the cup as good preparation for the top duel. “Union plays like Viktoria Köln,” says the Bayern coach. “Only in better quality.” Which is why it doesn’t necessarily have to lead to the same result.