If Manchester United were playing Bayern Munich or even Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League this evening, to most it would sound like a bigger game than a duel against RB Leipzig.
Leipzig’s heroics in last season’s Champions League put them on the map at the European level for the first time, but it is a club that remains relatively unknown to most British fans.
At yesterday’s pre-match press conference, one journalist asked United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ‘how much do you know about Red Bull Leipzig?’ to which Solskjaer replied with a trademark grin ‘I know they’re not called what you just said.’
What the manager meant by that is that despite being owned by Red Bull Gmbh, playing at the Red Bull Arena, having the nickname of the Red Bulls and sporting not one, but two red bulls on their badge, the club’s name is actually RasenBallsport Leipzig (translation: Lawn Ball Sports Leipzig’).
The fact that the club has only been in existence for eleven years and yet has already reached the semi-final of the Champions League is something of a fairy tale, but it was no blip. The side currently lie top of the Bundesliga, unbeaten with four wins and a draw this season. They also comfortably won their opening Champions League game against Istanbul Basaksehir and have conceded only three goals in seven games this term.
Leipzig’s head coach is as much of an overnight success as the club itself. Julian Nagelsmann is still only 33 years old – five months younger than Edinson Cavani – and yet has already built a reputation as one of the world’s top young managers.
The former centre-back became the youngest head coach in Bundesliga history when he was given the job of saving 1899 Hoffenheim in the 2015/16 season. When Nagelsmann took over, Hoffenheim were 17th in the table, 7 points from safety. He led the side on a brilliant run, winning 7 of the remaining 14 matches and even avoided the relegation playoffs.
The following season, Nagelsmann led Hoffenheim to fourth spot in Germany’s top tier and a place in the Champions League for the first time in their history.
In 2017/18, Hoffenheim finished third in the Bundesliga, ahead of Borussia Dortmund.
He joined Leipzig at the start of last season, leading them to third in the Bundesliga and of course that historic run to the Champions League semi-final.
Nagelsmann tends to prefer employing a 3-4-2-1 formation, with long-term United target Dayot Upamecano a linchpin at the back and striker Emil Forsberg doing his best to fill the boots of departed Timo Werner up front.
Former Crystal Palace man Alexander Sorloth is slowly being introduced into the forward line after a fantastic season for Trabzonspor in Turkey, where he scored 33 goals and provided 11 assists in 49 games last season.
Nagelsmann’s tactical approach to tonight’s game will be interesting to observe, in particular, whether he will set his stall out to pick up a valuable away point or whether he will target United’s fragile defence and seek to play on the front foot and take the game to United.
This summer’s transfer window has been one of the strangest in living memory. So cast your mind back to less stressful days and test your knowledge of past United arrivals and departures in our quiz below.