Manchester United has gone from a three-match losing streak to a three-match winning streak after Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s second half goal led the Red Devils to a 1-0 win over Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford on Thursday.
The UEFA Europa League match was heavily titled in United’s favor, as Jose Mourinho’s men controlled the ball but didn’t find a finish outside of their big Swedish striker.
“It was not an easy game, we played well, created chances but this is a typical game. When you don’t score in the beginning, the spaces get smaller and smaller. After the goal, we had more space but it was a decent game. We won and that is what counts after losing against Feyenoord.
“If you want to go through, you need to win the game, we did that. We could have done much more though and I expect much more from the team. We did not score as we did against Leicester but it is good for confidence. If we continue this and step it up, we will do good.”
United didn’t look like they’d concede a goal during the match aside from a very brief stretch early in the second half. Next up is an Oct. 20 trip to Fenerbahce.
Hasenhuttl, 52, joined Saints in December 2018 and his high-pressing style of play has impressed fans and neutrals, although there have been a few bumps in the road along the way.
The low-point was the 9-0 home defeat to Leicester City in October but since then Hasenhuttl went back to basics with his tactics and the slate was wiped clean for most of his players. Saints went on a run of seven wins from 11 games from late November to January to drag themselves away from the relegation battle.
“This, for me, was a simple decision. Simple because of the relationship that I have built with the club, the players and the fans, and also because of the relationship they have built with me too,” Hasenhuttl said. “I said when I arrived at the club that we were at the beginning of a long journey, and also a journey that would bring emotion and hopefully enjoyment. We have already had some moments where we could celebrate together, and some that have been emotional and also challenging.
“The way we have handled this together as a group of people has been incredible for me, and I believe we now have strong foundations here that can allow us to take the next steps in our progress as a team… We value the same philosophies, and this is a big part of why I want to stay here, and I hope we can share in some very successful moments moving forward.”
This works out well for everyone. Saints need Hasenhuttl and vice versa, as the club stood by him when his side were battered by Leicester and were all over the place defensively earlier in the season. Since then there’s been a massive turnaround as Hasenhuttl’s high-pressing style has returned to Saints and they’ve won away at the likes of Chelsea and Leicester City.
Southampton currently sit seven points above the relegation zone with nine games of the 2019-20 season to go and Hasenhuttl’s young, hungry side have a string of games against teams battling against relegation to come.
This contract will give the playing squad certainty as Hasenhuttl only had one year left on his previous deal. Shane Long is expected to sign a contract extension soon too, while captan Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has one year on his contract but may be swayed to stay at Saints given Hasenhuttl will be sticking around.
The financial situation at Saints is a little unclear given that their majority owner Gao Jisheng has stated he will not bankroll signings and wants the club to be sustainable, so Hasenhuttl will likely have to rely on polishing plenty of gems from Saints’ famed academy to bring into the first team.
Providing Saints don’t collapse in the final games of the season, they will be in the Premier League next season and they will have stability with Hasenhuttl around as they can plan ahead. During the suspension of play, Hasenhuttl has been working on a virtual book for the entire academy system at Saints to follow and his style of play will now be present from their youth sides all the way up to the first team.
The ‘Klopp of the Alps’ has found his home on England’s south coast.
The win also gave plenty of misery to Schalke, who looks absolutely rudderless. David Wagner’s men are winless in 11 league outings with five draws and a total of three goals scored. Three of those losses have come to teams currently ranked 13th and lower on the table.
Schalke has produced nine shots on target in its four matches back from the break, with Weston McKennie’s diving header its only goal in 430 minutes. Next on the docket is a trip to Union Berlin before finishing with Bayer, Eintracht Frankfurt, Wolfsburg, and Freiburg.
Bremen, on the other hand, can move level on points with 15th place Mainz by beating Eintracht on Wednesday.
There are still tough matches on the docket including Wolfsburg and Bayern — the latter of whom may have already won the league by that June 16 home match — but Eintracht, Paderborn, Mainz, and Koln… there are points to be had there.
Also encouraging: American forward Josh Sargent has started all three matches of Bremen’s unbeaten run. He’s getting valuable experience and mettle for a 20-year-old, even if the direction has been, “Run around like a maniac and make lives miserable.”
Sargent is covering the entire field from his striker position, and he’s being noticed by defenders. He drew five fouls in 70 minutes, won 10-of-17 duels, and posted two tackles, an interception, and a clearance (Sofascore).
Player of the Week: There’s little question here. Jadon Sancho’s return to the Starting XI was an unqualified success as the English winger collected his first hat trick in a 6-1 win over Paderborn.
It was 0-0 before Thorgan Hazard opened the scoring, but Sancho had shown signs of life even while kicking off first half rust.
Sancho went 90 minutes in getting his three goals (57′, 74′, 90’+1), completing three of his four take-ons while passing at an absurd 92 percent given he plays much of his match in the final third.
He’s one of four players in Europe’s top five leagues to have double digit goals and assists (Alassane Plea, Serge Gnabry, and Lionel Messi). His price tag, rightfully, is going to be absolutely nuts, pandemic or not.
Week 24 reschedule
Werder Bremen v. Eintracht Frankfurt — 2:30 p.m. ET Wednesday
Week 30 Freiburg v. Borussia Monchengladbach — 2:30 p.m. ET Friday
Bayer Leverkusen v. Bayern Munich — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
RB Leipzig v. Paderborn — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Mainz — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Fortuna Dusseldorf v. Hoffenheim — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Borussia Dortmund v. Hertha Berlin — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday
Werder Bremen v. Wolfsburg — 7:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Union Berlin v. Schalke — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Augsburg v. Koln — Noon ET Sunday
The DFB also said on Monday that Jadon Sancho’s booking for removing his jersey to reveal a T-shirt with the demand “Justice for George Floyd” had nothing to do with the message — rather, the yellow card was issued because the 20-year-old England forward broke a rule that says players who celebrate goals by taking off their jerseys or lifting them over their heads must be booked for “unsporting behavior.”
Borussia Dortmund teammate Achraf Hakimi, 21, who displayed the same message after scoring in the same game on Sunday, was not booked because he did not lift his jersey over his head.
The DFB control committee is looking into their gestures and those made by Schalke’s 21-year-old American midfielder Weston McKennie and Borussia Monchengladbach’s 22-year-old French forward Marcus Thuram to see if the four players broke laws that prohibit players from displaying “political, religious or personal slogans.”
Thuram on Sunday took a knee after scoring in Borussia Monchengladbach’s win over Union Berlin.
Sancho and Hakimi followed suit later Sunday.
Floyd, a handcuffed black man, died on Monday after a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee for several minutes on his neck. Three other officers were also at the scene. Chauvin has been charged with murder and all four were fired.
DFB president Fritz Keller on Monday showed his respect and understanding for McKennie, Thuram, Sancho and Hakimi’s gestures.
“If people are discriminated against on the basis of their skin color, it is unbearable. If they die because of their skin color, then I am deeply distraught,” Keller said in a DFB statement. “The victims of racism need all of us to show solidarity.”
Keller referred to meetings with victims of discrimination and representatives of organizations that have faced anti-Semetic, anti-Muslim or racist hostility, and said the DFB and German soccer was showing its clear rejection of all forms of racism, discrimination and violence.
Keller also praised both male and female players for taking a stand and showing their solidarity.
“I’m proud of them. I can completely understand the actions from the weekend. Nobody can be indifferent to what happened in the United States,” Keller said.
Former Mainz forward Anthony Ujah was just given a warning by the DFB in 2014 in regard to the ban on political statements when he displayed a T-shirt with Eric Garner’s name and the words “can’t breathe” and “justice,” in reference to Garner’s death after a police officer placed him in what appeared to be a chokehold.
Now playing for Union Berlin, Ujah on Thursday tweeted a picture of his protest from the time, but with Floyd’s name typed above in bold.
Floyd also said “I can’t breathe” before he died.
“If the DFB’s control committee wants to investigate, then I have to ask myself if we all have the same values,” Union sporting director Oliver Ruhnert said. “It’s about a global issue here: The no to racism.”