On Saturday the 16th May, the Bundesliga became the first major European League to resume top-level football. With all leagues suspended following the outbreak of COVID-19, the Belarusian Premier League was the only football still being played throughout Europe. All football in France and Holland has been cancelled, with PSG and Ajax being handed their titles respectively.
The whole footballing world is now looking at the German Bundesliga to see how other nations can begin to resume their football seasons. The Premier League is no different. The UK government have confirmed they are ‘open’ to returning to action in June. However, the game will be played in different circumstances to what we are used to.
The suspension of the season came at an unfortunate time for Manchester United. A good run of results meant Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were pushing for both a top-four finish and progression in the cups. Everyone at Old Trafford and every other club will be looking at how the Bundesliga carries out their fixtures to see how this could work in England.
One of the opening games has seen Dortmund thrash their fierce local rivals Schalke 4-0 at Signal Iduna Park. Reported United target Jadon Sancho started the game on the bench, with Erling Haaland, who we tried to sign in the January window, putting ex-Huddersfield manager David Wagner’s Schalke to the sword. Elsewhere RB Leipzig salvaged a draw at home to Freiburg and Hertha Berlin going to Hoffenheim and picking up 3 points.
The key component of these games has been no supporters in the stands. If the Premier League is to restart, this will be a feature of all games. As we all know, football is nothing without us, the supporters and fans. Our remaining games at Old Trafford and away from home, starting with Tottenham if the season is allowed to resume, will be played ‘behind closed doors’ with rows upon rows of empty seats.
This will take away the atmosphere within the ground. However, based on current medical advice, it appears it could be another 12-18 months before this changes. Another notable feature of the opening Bundesliga games was that the intensity was still evident. Players were still going into tackles giving 100%. This is something we all want to see at Old Trafford and football must not resume, with rumoured measures such as players having to look away when making a tackle. This would not be football.
The substitutes during these opening games in Germany all sat in the stands, a distance away from each other as opposed to in close proximity on the bench as they would normally. The German FA has temporarily allowed 5 substitutions to be allowed during games during this pandemic, something the Premier League will also adopt.
What is clear is that when Manchester United finally get to resume the season, or even start the new season if this one is eventually scrapped, the basis upon which this is allowed to happen will owe a lot to how the German season is carried out. It will be in empty stadiums with social distancing being enforced on the benches and in team celebrations. It’s not quite football as we know it, but we all want a safe return to action and the Bundesliga is currently leading the way.