England under-21 international Michael Mancienne made his full team debut for German side Hamburg on Friday night after his move from Chelsea in the summer.
The defender, though, was given a tough introduction to life in the German top flight, with reigning champions Borrussia Dortmund brushing Hamburg aside with an impressive 3-1 victory.
Many commenters on the game appear to have been quite harsh on Mancienne who, despite being positionally suspect at times, looked confident on the ball and made a few notable interceptions, particularly early on.
Admittedly, his positioning and general awareness was lacklustre for Dortmund’s first goal, Mancienne perhaps playing too close to his centre-back partner Heiko Westermann allowing Kevin Großkreutz to make a well-timed run and finish well. The former-Wolves loanee maybe could have stepped forward and played Großkreutz offside but, to be fair, the Hamburg defence as a whole were a shambles, as was shown repeatedly over the course of the game.
Shinji Kagawa could have had a hat-trick before half-time, exploiting the flaws in the Rothosen defence with great ease. The Japanese midfielder fired wide twice and hit the post before Mario Götze doubled Dortmund’s lead – placing past the ‘keeper after a clever one-two to break through the Hamburg back-line. Mancienne was beaten by an intelligent backheel from Robert Lewandowski but, again, there was little the twenty three year old could do to prevent the goal.
The Hamburg defence as a unit were very poor and this was particularly exposed for Dortmund’s third goal. The passing from BVB was intuitive and the pass around the corner by Sven Bender was shrewd but the Hamburg players in the penalty area were static – as Großkreutz taps in the rebound after being denied at first, Mancienne can be seen standing still, possibly ball-watching or just without hope of getting to the ball.
Hamburg did get a late consolation – Robert Tesche smashing in from eight yards after some pinball in the area – but Mancienne’s first game in the red of Hamburg was certainly something of a baptism of fire.
Mancienne wasn’t afraid to pass the ball around at the back, always looking to find a man in space rather than a casual hoof upfield. In the summer, Mancienne was played in midfield for England Under-21s, despite having excelled at centre-back for Wolves previously, but it is clear that he is a ball-playing defender.
Based on this game, he needs to work on his positioning but bear in mind that this was his first ‘full’ game for Hamburg – it will take time for him to settle in, and in that time he and his teammates will grow an understanding with each other. It might seem a rather trivial point but Mancienne didn’t seem over-awed by his new surroundings in what can be a pretty raucous atmosphere at Westfalenstadion. And I suppose one other positive, as the ESPN commentator on the game said, is that Mancienne won’t have to face the best team in Germany, possibly Europe, every week.
This article was originally published on Les Rosbifs.