Marcel Sabitzer's Man United 'pain', Erik ten Hag truth and Borussia Dortmund reminder

Marcel Sabitzer celebrates after scoring against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League quarter-final.
Marcel Sabitzer celebrates after scoring against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League quarter-final. -Credit:Joris Verwijst/BSR Agency/Getty Images

Former Manchester United loanee Marcel Sabitzer was the hero for new side Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday night as they booked their place in the Champions League semi-final.

The German side came from 2-1 down in the first leg to beat Atletico Madrid 5-4 on aggregate. Goals from Julian Brandt, Ian Maatsen, Niclas Fullkrug, and Sabitzer gave them a 4-2 win on the night which was enough to see them through.

The winning goal came just a few days after the 30-year-old scored both of the team’s goals in a 2-1 Bundesliga win over Borussia Monchengladbach and was his sixth strike of the season. Not only did Sabitzer score the winning goal, he also provided assists for two teammates during the game, meaning he played a part in three of the four Dortmund goals.

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His performance may leave United fans and Erik ten Hag thinking what could have been. The midfielder only completed a transfer to Dortmund in the summer after spending some time on loan at Old Trafford.

Sabitzer joined United on a six-month loan from Bayern Munich in January 2023. He made 18 appearances for the club, scoring three times and providing one assist, two of those goals came in the Europa League quarter-final first-leg draw against Sevilla, United went on to lose the second leg 3-0.

After joining Dortmund on a permanent deal in the summer, the midfielder delivered a verdict on his short spell at United. “I remember a lot of things from my time at Manchester United," he told Dortmund’s club media.

“I was very impressed by the fact of having played for a club of such stature. I had a smile every day at the thought of being there and playing.

“It's also because I had playing time [at United] that I found my rhythm and my self-confidence. I showed good things there and that has an impact because a year and a half ago everyone doubted me. When you can prove again that you can play a part in big clubs like this, it's good for confidence.”

Later, in an interview with the Athletic back in November, Sabitzer had specific praise for Ten Hag and his tactical knowledge. “You can wake him up at 3am, he’d tell you his whole match plan by heart," he said.

"He’s very knowledgeable about football and tactics — a very hard worker, a perfectionist. And he’s very straight with you. When I had a bad game, he showed me some situations and told me how to do it better next time. I liked that.

"You knew where you stood with him. He never threw you under the bus. Instead, he told players to go out and do better in the next game. I learned a lot about football working under him. He’s a very good coach.”

The loan move to United looked like it would be made permanent in the summer, only for injury to cut Sabitzer’s season short. The midfielder revealed how he tried to play through the pain to make the move happen.

“I already picked up the injury two weeks into my stay and then played through the pain because I wanted to make it work,” he said. “But at one point, I couldn’t go on any more and had to have surgery.

“I couldn’t be happier at Dortmund and feel that I’m exactly at the right place right now. I feel the support of the whole club. You need that to perform well.”

Sabitzer will now look to help Dortmund go one step further in the Champions League. They take on Paris Saint Germain in their semi-final after the French giants overcame Barcelona.