The media chatter in the build-up to the weekend’s Ruhr derby was very much a tale of two managers – one apparently on the up and the other seemingly on the way out.
The result, a spellbindingly dramatic 4-4 draw, did little to change that angle.
In the Black and Yellow corner stood the embattled Borussia Dortmund manager Peter Bosz, who has seen a record-breaking start to the season crumble to dust.
And in the Blue corner we had 32-year-old Domenico Tedesco, the latest head-turning, uber young coach to roll off the Hennes-Weisweiler-Akademie (Germany football’s prolific and much-vaunted coaching academy) production line.
Doubtless you’ve heard of Julian Nagelsmann, the 29-year-old Hoffenheim manager who saved the club from relegation and then guided them into the Champions League qualifiers in just 18 months at the helm? Well, Tedesco beat the lederhosen off the German wunderkind in finishing top of the coaching academy class they both graduated from in 2016 and is making waves of his own in Gelsenkirchen.
Going into Saturday’s derby, Schalke 04 were second in the Bundesliga, their highest position in five years.
The unlikely point taken from Signal Iduna Park means that Tedesco’s men are now unbeaten in their last seven games, winning four and drawing three.
An impressive run that leaves them third behind Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig, just five points off top spot.
An awful run of form over the same period meant Dortmund’s Peter Bosz faced into the fixture in desperate need of a win.
And he must’ve been delighted with his side’s first half display, his charges racing into a 4-0 lead within 25 minutes, the blitz a reminder of the blinding attacking football that epitomised their record start to the season.
Remember, BVB won six and drew one of their first seven league games, scoring 21 goals and conceding just two – a run that saw them lead the league by five points as they broke for the late September international break.
A dream start for the Dutch manager, the surprise summer choice as Thomas Tuchel’s successor.
But that dream has subsequently become a nightmare, with Schalke’s amazing second half recovery and the home side’s equally amazing capitulation heaping more pressure and misery on Bosz.
Dortmund have now failed to win in nine domestic and European fixtures. Five defeats and four draws have seen them plummet to fifth in the Bundesliga and exit the Champions League in ignominy.
BVB haven’t sacked a manager mid-season since 2006, but recent form and the manner of the weekend’s collapse have pushed the former Ajax manager right to the brink.
In the other dug out, Tedesco went from facing a chastening reality check to having his reputation enhanced in the space of an hour.
Doubtless those who might wonder at the level of praise the young manager has been receiving after only 26 senior games in charge – 11 of those in Bundesliga 2 – might have felt vindicated as Dortmund tore the second best defence in the league to shreds.
Before the derby, Schalke had conceded only 10 goals, an unusually low tally for a club not noted for defensive solidity in recent seasons.
Tedesco was credited with bringing order and organisation where often there had been chaos – and doing so in double quick time. But perhaps the first-half mauling suggested that the praise was dished out a tad early?
Schalke’s recovery would’ve been incredible in any circumstances. But in the context of the season so far, it was jaw dropping.
The Miners have impressed with the balanced and solid nature of their play, but had only managed to score 16 goals in their 12 fixtures. An historic recovery surely wasn’t on anyone’s mind?
Tedesco says he simply urged his players to go out and win the second half. But the manner of his side’s response will earn him great credit. And so too will his double substitution on the half hour.
The introduction of attacking midfielders Leon Goretzka and Amine Harit helped stem the tide before ultimately turning it.
Schalke’s Revierderby miracle and Tedesco’s part in it will be the stuff of fan legend.
However, the bright young manager with degrees in Business Engineering and Innovation Management will surely reflect on the suffering of his opponent on Saturday and recognise that in football things can change so very quickly – and reputations are both hard-earned and fragile.