FC Twente have made one of their best ever starts to a domestic season, winning all five Eredivisie games so far, but Thursday's UEFA Europa League Group L visit of Hannover 96 will serve to remind coach Steve McClaren that glory can be fleeting.
Having led Twente to their first Dutch title in 2009/10, the Englishman was snapped up by German side VfL Wolfsburg. The former England manager, and Sir Alex Ferguson's one-time assistant at Manchester United FC, may recall that after three defeats his first Bundesliga victory came against Hannover. McClaren is even less likely to have forgotten that his dismissal on 7 February 2011 came two days after a 1-0 loss to Mirko Slomka's team.
That miserable spell in Germany – and his brief return to England last term with Nottingham Forest FC – were put behind McClaren when he rejoined Twente in January. While his side slumped to a sixth-place finish with one point from their final five games, they have made amends with five straight victories this season – their best opening salvo since kicking off the 1968/69 campaign with six wins on the bounce.
Mindful that his side have yet to come up against any of the Netherlands' biggest names, McClaren has been careful not to overstate their case. "We have got five wins from five matches," he said after Saturday's 6-2 triumph at Willem II. "We have tougher tasks ahead in the coming weeks. The real tests are still to come. Then we will know where we stand."
Seemingly more concerned about the two goals conceded in the Enschede club's 700th Eredivisie victory than the six they scored, the 51-year-old added: "
Against Willem II we gave away too much space. If you do that against a team like Hannover, you will get slaughtered."
Twente's European showings this term have also given McClaren cause for doubt. As UEFA Fair Play entrants, Twente had to battle through to the group stage from the first qualifying round, and lost their play-off first leg 3-1 at Turkish outfit Bursaspor before prevailing in extra time at home, winning the return 4-1.
That close call may have played on his coach's nerves, yet defender Robbert Schilder – who scored on the night – says the excitement piqued his appetite for the group stage. "I am really looking forward to this one," the 26-year-old said. "The last home game in the Europa League is still very much in my mind. It was a wonderful evening. It was a crazy match and we won in extra time – beautiful. As a player, you can never get enough of those kinds of matches. The atmosphere on European nights like that is something special. I hope we have a wild one like that again."
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