It all began innocently enough, Jose Mourinho was sacked for no reason, to allow an unproven 23-year-old with no managerial, coaching or professional footballing experience to take over at Manchester United. The fans were more confused and bewildered than angry. The manager’s name was Shaun, and all he really wanted was to improve upon his predecessor. He even started sharing his progress online, going through the results of his games for each month.Then it got to April and things went quiet, he never finished his story. I asked him why he never finished it and his response was “things got too busy at the end of the season so I had to pack it in”. I think he stopped it because he bottled the league, he was top going into April and then ended up finishing 2nd.
So a season with no trophies and second place isn’t good enough apparently despite the blatant improvement over the last season. It could be his biggest regret, however, that he stopped his story, not because he didn’t win anything, because Man Utd would then go on to have their most successful period, probably ever.
5 consecutive Premier League titles, as well as 4 back to back Champions League wins, not mention FA cups, Club World Cups, Super Cups and a Carabao Cup all mixed in those 6 years at United. As well as an incredible 21/22 season in which all trophies were won by Shaun’s United side, 7 trophies to be exact. It was at that time Shaun felt like it was time to move on and in the summer of the 22/23 season, the Bayern, Leverkusen, PSG, Monaco, Juventus and Barcelona jobs all became available. He applied for them all but was unable to leave as no club wanted to pay the compensation to United. He stayed on one more year announcing his resignation a month or so before the end of the season, guaranteeing that he’d be at a different club for the 23/24 season. His final game was the Champions League Final which that year happen to be at Old Trafford. A 3-1 win over Manchester City made his last game in charge all the more special and with that Shaun stepped out of the icons club and became a legend.
Despite Phil Neville being his assistant for all his time there, Phil couldn’t even make it on to the favoured personnel list. Something which Shaun teases Phil about every god damn day.
So it was a summer of relaxing on the beach and waiting for jobs to appear for Shaun. Although he said once that he didn’t like beaches, or it was something similar at least. The Real Madrid job was the first to pop up but Shaun felt they had been too successful over the last few years adding 4 La Liga titles to there history since 2018. Barcelona hadn’t won the league since the 15/16 season so that was the job in Spain he wanted but it wouldn’t be available this summer. Hoffenheim became available, a team that had no trophies to its name had just finished 4th in the Bundesliga giving them a Champions League place. He applied, had an interview and was offered the job but delayed taking it for 3 weeks to see what else would appear. Juventus popped up and eventually offered him the job but it was similar to the Madrid job, Juve adding 4 Serie A titles to their trophy cabinet. So Juve was rejected and Shaun said “I’ll do it” to Hoffenheim and thus the 23/24 season would begin with Shaun in charge of Hoffenheim.
“A 4-star reputation club get a 5-star manager” were Shaun first words to the players when he arrived. Fortunately, not many of them spoke English, and when Centre Back Jorden Torunarigha asked if he should translate that, Shaun replied “No”.
It turns out Hoffenheim do have a trophy to their name that being the German fifth tier title. The first thing Shaun did when arriving was to bring his “pal” Phil Neville to The Hoff as his assistant. £18.5k is what Phil is on, which is more than some of the players. Shaun remarked, “he doesn’t deserve it, your right, but he’s got it”.
It was a busy summer for Hoffenheim with 13 players coming in, only 11 finalized by Shaun. The director of football brought in 2 youngsters for free but Shaun still said it was a waste. A few big names where sold because they wanted to leave and none bigger than Amiri who left for RB Leipzig for £35.5 rising to £51.
Shaun went back to United for a few players, Rodriguez and Marin came on free’s but The Hoff had to pay £2mill compensation for Rodriguez. Walsh and Kucera came in on loan, the later had a very successful loan spell at Brighton last season scoring 17 in 33 league games, the 19-year-old could be a star. Jonny, Partey, and Sancho are some of the recognizable names. The biggest signing was Weston Mckennie who had left Schalke in his youth for Chelsea. Shaun decided to bring him back to Germany to play a key role in the midfield. After winning all the pre-season games and winning 7-0 in the first round of the cup it was time for opening day. Away at Schalke could be a tough game, despite 11th and 13th place finishes in their last 2 campaigns. Shaun was feeling confident… I mean, so would I if I had just won 5 back to back league titles and all that.
Matchday 1: Schalke 04 vs The Hoff
The first real chance of the game fell to the away side, a freekick was cleared but straight to a Hoffenheim man. Jonny, the new right back, played it down the line for another debutant, Sancho, who knocked it forward for Tenorio who’s cross found the youngster Kucera who volleyed home despite having 2 Schalke defenders on him. A debut goal for him, 1-0 The Hoff.
Tenorio has a chance of his own right after, Kucera this time crossing for Tenorio to strike on goal but the keeper saves it at his near post.
5 minutes after the opening goal The Hoff win a throw on the left in the Schalke half. Mckennie has a long throw and it’s his long throw which catches the home team out. Tenorio is the end of it to head home, the keeper is in no man’s land, 2-0 The Hoff.
Right before halftime, there’s some nice build-up play on the edge of the box, Rodriguez into Kucera. He plays in Tenorio and it’s a great tackle by Reyes of Schalke. The ball falls to Kucera who shoots at the near post but the Schalke keeper is equal to it, 2-0 at halftime.
The first action of the 2nd half is a Hoffenheim corner, its headed away, Sancho picks it up and let’s fly from 20 yards but the keeper is equal to it.
66 minutes in and Schalke finally threaten, they work it nicely and Werner finds space on the left. Marin plays him in, Werner takes a touch and smashes it over the bar, should have scored.
Some work by our Marin on the left side, he finds Kucera who cuts it back to the edge of the box. Tenorio takes a touch and shoots and its a good save by Posavec in the Schalke goal.
10 minutes to go The Hoff have a free kick in a dangerous area, Rodriguez swings it in, to the back post. Torunarigha has a free header but his effort sails over the bar.
Alic for Schalke and Rodriguez for Hoffenheim have efforts from distance in the closing stages. Neither troubles the keeper the game ends, Schalke 0-2 The Hoff.
The match stats make it look like an even game but Schalke had no clear-cut chances. To be fair The Hoff only had 1 but they took it, as well as 1 of their 4 half chances.
Young center back Prince Quaye was brought in after the game and then loaned out on deadline day. The summer has come to a close, with every deal done and the league season underway, Shaun had a look at what the bookies thought. They think The Hoff will finish in 5th place missing out on the Champions League places. The board only want a Europa League qualification so there’s not too much pressure. The draw for the Champions League group stage is next month and the competition starts next month as well so look forward to that. The toughest game in the league is away to Gladbach who have a 28-year-old Gnabry and 26-year-old Emre Mor playing either side for them, it should be interesting.