Hanover - For Ron-Robert Zieler, Hannover 96's friendly against Manchester United was a chance to meet old friends. The young stopper joined United's U-18 title winners back in 2005 and his time in England proved to be a resounding success, laying the foundations for a bright career.
Since his move to Hannover, the 23-year-old has featured not only in the Europa League, but he has also joined the ranks of the national team as well and will stand between the posts when Germany face Argentina on Wednesday.
Zieler "was sensational"
In spite of the 4-3 defeat to last season's Premier League runners-up, Hannover coach Mirko Slomka broke with his usual tradition by singling out one player for particular praise. "Look no further than the performance of Ron-Robert Zieler. He was sensational", said the 96ers coach. Even his former Manchester United team mates "are really pleased with my progress and with the way my career's going", according to the proud goalkeeper, who took time out to answer the reporters' questions at the AWD-Arena.
Question: Mr Zieler, you spent a fair bit of time chatting with your ex-colleagues. What was it like facing your old club?
Ron-Robert Zieler: For me it was a really welcome return - today I met up with many old friends. I really enjoyed the game against my old club.
Question: Your trainer Mirko Slomka said you were the "stand-out" performer. Have the Manchester United players asked you to come back after such a display?
Zieler (laughs): No. But they congratulated me and are pleased for me. Of course it's no secret that I'm now part of the national team. Naturally, I'm pleased with the praise from my coach.
Question: How do you rate such a friendly match?
Zieler: Highly. You can learn lots about yourself in a friendly against Manchester United. And the fans witnessed a cracking game.
Question: So you take this sort of game seriously?
Zieler: Of course. I'm annoyed with the way in which we lost. When you go 3-1 up, of course you want to win. It's always going to be difficult against a forward line as formidable as Manchester United's, though. The fact that we threw the game away - we have to learn from that.
Question: Hannover have to go through the first rounds of qualifiers to reach the Europa League. Does that put you at a disadvantage compared with the rest of the Bundesliga teams?
Zieler: On the contrary. European football does us good. It gives us the platform to develop our competitiveness.
Question:Before the season kicks-off, you've got a DFB Cup game against regional side FC Nöttingen...can you take a win there for granted?
Zieler: No, we make sure we take our opponents seriously . That way, this time round, we'll stay in the competition longer than in the last two seasons (in 2010/11, Hannover were knocked out in the first round by fourth division side SV 07 Elversberg; in 2011/12 they fell to Mainz 05 in round two). Preferably until next year.
Question: Before the season starts, there's an international against Argentina...
Zieler: I'm pleased to see the guys again, even though it wasn't that long ago that we were together at the European Championships.
Question: What do you expect from the season?
Zieler: We want to confirm the performances of the last two years and once again qualify for the Europa League. That was great fun for the fans and players.