Michael Mancienne may not yet have started practising his German ahead of his summer move to Hamburger SV, but he will hope to be part of an England team that gives Spain a lesson of a different kind when the teams meet in their opening fixture at the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Herning.
When England defeated Spain 2-0 at the finals two years ago, the centre-back was a frustrated onlooker, absent through suspension after his sending-off in the first half of the opening game against Finland. He will hope to avoid a false start this time as England look for a positive opening result against a team widely rated as the tournament favourites.
"Everyone's really geed up for the first game," said Mancienne. "They're a great football nation with a lot of talented players, but none of the boys are scared of playing against them. We're looking forward to playing against them, and hopefully beating them. It's going to be a great game. Spain are a great team, but we've got a great team too. If it is a sell-out, which I heard it is, I think it'll be a very good game."
The goal for England is to go one better than 2009 in Sweden when they reached the final before losing 4-0 to Germany. Mancienne played in the third group game against Germany – a 1-1 draw – and featured as a second-half substitute in the final. If Germany spelt disappointment then, the 23-year-old hopes it will soon bring success given his decision to sign a four-year contract with Bundesliga club Hamburg.
He began his career with Chelsea FC but made only four league appearances there, instead finding first-team opportunities on loan at Wolverhampton Wanderers FC for three seasons – the last two in the Premier League.
He is confident playing in the Bundesliga will improve him further. "I think it'll be of great benefit for me. It's a new challenge for me to play for a big team such as Hamburg, and to be playing week in, week out. I'm really honoured to go there. I'm really looking forward to the challenge. I saw it as a massive opportunity to go abroad and play in the Bundesliga. I had a few other options, but I saw Hamburg as my biggest option."
Mancienne was not even born when another Englishman, Kevin Keegan, shone for Hamburg during a three-year spell from 1977-80 during which Keegan was named European Footballer of the Year. Keegan's nickname there was famously Mighty Mouse; Mancienne has the same initials but just a fraction of his success would be something to remember.
"You want to be remembered at your club for doing really well. I knew Kevin Keegan was a hero at Hamburg. Hopefully, I can follow in his footsteps."
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