‘I've rarely been happier than this’
Sat, 28/10/23, 19:45
Manuel Neuer enjoys winning return against Darmstadt
The Allianz Arena was far from full, but it erupted into a wall of noise around 40 minutes before kick-off against Darmstadt when Manuel Neuer stepped out onto the pitch for his warm-up. It was exactly 350 days since he’d last appeared between the posts for Bayern. Around two-and-a-half hours later, all those fans felt like he’d never been away.
“I was positively excited and in some anticipation of what was going to happen out there. I was just really excited to be back at the Allianz Arena, to play in front of my own fans and to be on the pitch with the team,” the goalkeeper said after full-time.
Neuer impresses in first half
Those who thought Neuer would enjoy a quiet afternoon on his comeback were quickly proven wrong, at least in the first half. Promoted Darmstadt were brave and had a man advantage for a quarter of an hour after Joshua Kimmich’s fourth-minute red card, before the visitors themselves went a man down after the later dismissals of Klaus Gjasula and Matej Maglica. The Lilies fired off eight shots in the first 45 minutes, with the Bayern captain needing to respond to three of them. His most important stop came in the 36th minute when Marvin Mehlem was through on goal, but Neuer kept himself big to repel the effort.
“Manu was where he had to be in the first half. He made two super saves. The game did him some good,” enthused sporting director Christoph Freund afterwards. Neuer kept Bayern in the game with his stops, laying the foundation for one of Bayern’s best halves in Bundesliga history. The record champions tore the Darmstadt defence apart after the restart, leaving Neuer with almost nothing to do now. After 26 touches in the first 45 minutes, the goalkeeper saw the ball only six times in the second period. But he remained as alert as always and made another stop from Tim Skarke in the 90th minute to keep that clean sheet.
Tuchel: “A sensational achievement”
“We’re pleased he kept a clean sheet straightaway and had a great performance,” said head coach Thomas Tuchel. “Coming back the way he has, not many could do that. It’s a sensational achievement.” It meant the man of the moment was able to enjoy the celebrations with his teammates after the game. “I've rarely been happier than this, to have finally made it and that so many who accompanied me were in the stadium today,” Neuer added. And on behalf of all fans, it’s great to have you back, Manu!
Read more reaction to the Darmstadt game here: