Reds at Euro 2012: how did they do?

June 28, 2012 Tags: International 5 comments

Seven Manchester United players appeared at Euro 2012, with a further six former Reds also playing at the tournament. Rant looks back on each player’s performance, with the tournament winding up with the Spain – Italy final in Kiev on Sunday:

Wayne Rooney, England
England’s talisman suffered yet another disappointing competition, after injury, poor form or dismissal struck at tournaments in 2004, 2006 and 2010. But after a five-week layoff, with Rooney hamstrung by an English system designed above all to ‘not lose’, how could anybody expect any different? Sitting out matches against France and Sweden, Rooney made a goal-scoring return against co-hosts Ukraine, before a frustrating outing against Italy in the quarter-final. The United striker has taken the brunt of national blame for England’s quarter-final departure, but aged just 26, Rooney has at least three more tournaments at international level. The question is: will he finally star in one of them?

Appearances: 2
Goals: 1
Assists: 0
Chances created: 2
Shots: 6
Passing: 55/76 (72%)


Ashley Young, England
Young began the tournament as one of England’s brightest hopes, having scored six times in the previous 10 internationals before Euro 2012 kicked off.Yet, much like England’s other attacking players Young suffered for the negative system, turning in a poor set of metrics that included no goals, no assists and just two chances created for his team-mates over four matches. The former Aston Villa man can’t be happy with his overall performance. That more than half of Young’s touches came in his own half tells a story though – of a player deployed far more defensively that he is by United. There is more to come from Young, but he will be disappointed that he did not make his mark of this tournament.

Appearances: 4
Goals: 0
Assists: 0
Chances created: 2
Shots: 4
Passing: 76/102 (75%)


Danny Welbeck, England
Strong performances from Welbeck under difficult circumstances at Euro 2012 mean that the United youngster will leave Poland and Ukraine with plenty to be pleased about. The 21-year-old was neat and tidy on the ball, whether deployed either as a traditional ‘number 9’ or dropping deep to augment midfield. The Manchester-born striker also scored a superb winning goal against Sweden – flicking home with his heel to seal England’s 3-2 win in Group D. Welbeck has a very bright international future ahead of him, especially if he can add goals to an excellent all-round game.

Appearances: 4
Goals: 1
Assists: 0
Chances created: 2
Shots: 4
Passing: 82/90 (91%)


Phil Jones, England
The United defender-cum-midfielder was at Euro 2012 ostensibly as Glenn Johnson’s cover at right-back, although the 20-year-old failed to see any action in Poland and Ukraine. Jones may well have benefited from the experience of a major international tournament, although his club manager Sir Alex Ferguson can hardly be pleased that a player who suffered burn out and injuries during the second half of last season didn’t get a longer summer rest. Moreover, given Johnson’s less-than-secure defensive displays during the tournament, Jones may well be disappointed to have not seen more action.

Appearances: 0
Goals: –
Assists: –
Chances created: –
Shots: –
Passing: –


Patrice Evra, France
Former French captain Evra suffered another disappointing tournament, two years after the drama of South Africa at World Cup 2010. Selected despite some underwhelming club and national team displays over the past year, Evra was unceremoniously dropped by coach Laurent Blanc after France’s draw with England in the opening Group D fixture. It remains a perplexing decision given that Evra performed solidly against the English – this coming after the left-back was criticised for his performances in some of France’s warm-up games. Now aged 31, Evra may consider his international future.

Appearances: 1
Goals: 0
Assists: 0
Chances created: 1
Shots: 0
Passing: 65/69 (94%)


Nani, Portugal
United’s winger can be pleased with a strong tournament, in which the 25-year-old provided a string of consistent and threatening performances for semi-finalists Portugal. Embroiled in contract talks at Old Trafford, Nani can only have added to his reputation and value this summer. Nani, of course, was over-shadowed by Cristiano Ronaldo, but United player’s numbers add up to a fine tournament overall. Scored in the shoot-out loss to Spain in the semi-final, although will be disappointed with his performance against the World and European champions during the match itself.

Appearances: 5
Goals: 0
Assists: 2
Chances created: 13
Shots: 9
Passing: 106/142 (75%)


Anders Lindegaard, Denmark
Failed to make any appearances as the Danish exited the tournament at the group stage. After nearly five months off through injury, United’s second-choice ‘keeper was fortunate to make the Danish squad at all.

Appearances: 0
Goals: 0
Assists: –
Chances created: –
Shots: –
Passing: –


Former Reds at Euro 2012

Cristiano Ronaldo – the tournament in which Cristiano banished lingering doubts about his ability to perform at the highest level. Scored three times, hit the post on four occasions during the tournament. However, received criticism for not taking a penalty during the shoot-out loss to Spain

Gerard Piqué – still in the tournament, with Spain having made the final once again. Piqué didn’t have the finest campaign for Barcelona, but looks to be back to his best in the national shirt.

John O’Shea – a leading candidate among some pundits’ ‘worst team of the tournament’ lists. O’Shea, together with the haphazard Irish defence, were embarrassed against Croatia, Spain and Italy.

Darron Gibson – didn’t play for the Irish during a disastrous tournament.

Paul McShane – another former Red who didn’t feature for the Irish in three group matches.

Ron Robert Zieler – didn’t play for Germany as the Germans exited the tournament at the semi-final stage.

United Rant Live! Portugal v Spain

June 27, 2012 Tags: , International 4 comments

Just three games to go at Euro 2012, with Portugal meeting Spain in Donetsk on Wednesday, followed by Germany versus Italy in Warsaw on Thursday for the right to play in Sunday’s final. It should prove to be another fascinating round of matches in an excellent tournament to date, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and co aiming to pull off a shock against World and European champions Spain in the Iberian derby on Wednesday.

Much will depend on how Portugal approach the match, having displayed such attacking verve in matches against Denmark, Holland and Czech Republic, after opening the tournament so negatively against Germany. Indeed, Spain remain favourites despite the frequent accusations of the “boring” football served up in the tournament to date.

As ever, Portugal’s hopes lie with Ronaldo, who now has six European Championship goals in total. Having hit the woodwork four times already, the former Manchester United man could have scored a lot more. Only Alan Shearer with seven, and Michel Platini who has nine, have scored more in the tournament’s history.

The omens may not lie with Portugal though – the Spanish have beaten their neighbours just twice in the past 54 years, but the head-to-head record has Spain with 16 wins to Portugal’s six. The Portuguese have lost four of five previous semi-finals at major tournaments too – the only victory coming against Holland at home in 2004.

Spain, meanwhile, has gone 10 Euro finals matches without defeat since losing to Portugal in the 2004 tournament. Del Bosque’s side has also kept eight consecutive clean sheets in knock-out games at tournaments. Iker Casillas is unbeaten in more than 13 hours of knock-out football, since the great Zinedine Zidane scored a last-minute goal for France at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Both teams report a reasonably clean bill-of-health for the tie. Portugal striker Helder Postiga will miss the match with a thigh injury, with coach Paulo Bento likely to deploy Hugo Almeida in his stead. Postiga aside, Portugal should start with an unchanged line-up.

Meanwhile, Spain manager Vicente del Bosque has no new injury concerns after the quarter-final stroll against France, although the former Real Madrid manager must decide whether to recall striker Fernand Torres or persist with Cesc Fabregas as a ‘false 9’.

Join United Rant for live comment, analysis and chat during the first Euro 2012 semi-final. Early thoughts throughout the afternoon, with preamble, team news and pre-match comments from around 7pm.



United Rant Live! England v Italy

June 24, 2012 Tags: International 79 comments

England versus Italy hardly recalls memories of iconic past games. After all these two venerable nations have met just twice in tournament football; Italy winning both in the 1980 European Championships, and at the 1990 World Cup, third place play-off. Indeed, the Azzurri has the edge in recent meetings, having lost just once to England in the past 35 years. That loss came at the height of Glenn Hodle’s ‘chic’ England side at Le Tournoi, Nantes, in 1997, when Ian Wright and Paul Scholes scored.

Neither side was much fancied to make an impact on Euro 2012, but one will certainly reach the semi-finals after tonight’s fixture in the Ukrainian capital Kiev. However, it is, perhaps, Italy that has caught the eye to date – looking impressive against Spain in the opening fixture. But Roy Hodgson’s functional England side has warmed into the tournament – few expect anything other than an even match tonight.

Join United Rant Live for more comment, chat and analysis on this Euro 2012 quarter-final. We’ll be with you live with team news from around 7pm, with preamble, updates and quotes throughout the day.



United Rant Live! Germany v Greece

June 22, 2012 Tags: International 15 comments

More than 30 games into Euro 2012 and we reach the knock-out stages, when the true narrative of the tournament is always written. Over the next 10 days hopes and dreams will be shattered, or attained, as the tournament reaches it’s dénouement. What a tournament it has been to date, with some of the most attacking football seen at any international competition in recent memory.

The quarter-finals take place over four nights, starting with Portugal’s win over the Czech Republic on Thursday, and concluding with England’s defeat to Italy in Kiev on Sunday.

In between – Friday’s match, as Germany meets Greece in Gdansk. Can Mario Gomez, Mesut Ozil and the rest lead Germany into the semi-final, or will Greece’s fighting spirit produce another shock?

Join United Rant for live chat, comment and analysis on the match from around 7pm, with updates and news through the afternoon.



United Rant Live! England v Ukraine and Sweden v France

June 19, 2012 Tags: , International 46 comments

The “big man is back” Wayne Rooney once proclaimed on his return to the England side after a pre-World Cup 2006 injury. The tournament ended with Rooney dismissed during England’s quarter-final defeat to Portugal. Six years on, and it’s crunch time in Group D at Euro 2012, with England facing up to an early exit should Roy Hodgson’s side suffer defeat to Ukraine on Tuesday night.

However, victory over a mediocre Sweden side last week, together with Rooney’s return to the side from suspension, leaves England favourites to qualify along with France from Group D. Spain and Italy await in the knockout stages, and victory tonight will not ensure that England avoids the world champions, with France holding a slender goal difference advantage heading into the final Group D fixtures.

There’s plenty of Manchester United interest in these games, with Rooney likely to start alongside Danny Welbeck in attack for England, and Ashley Young on the wing. Meanwhile, Patrice Evra and Phil Jones are likely to be on the bench for France and England respectively.

Join United Rant for live comment, analysis and chat on England v Ukraine and Sweden v France from 7pm, with updates, team news and preamble throughout the day.



United Rant Live! Czech Rep. v Poland and Greece v Russia

June 16, 2012 Tags: , International 7 comments

Continuing the serious of, frankly, incongruous United Rant Live blogs during 2012, we’ll be covering the conclusion to Group A on Saturday night! There’s everything to play for in the ‘group of bored to death’, which turned out anything but.

Russia need only draw with Greece to qualify for the quarter finals, although a win will secure top spot in the group. Should Russia draw then the Czech’s could still finish top by beating Poland, and if the unthinkable happens and Greece beat Russia then Dick Advocaat’s men will be out unless there is a draw in the other fixture.

The Czech’s, meanwhile, can secure qualification with victory over Poland. A draw may be enough though, should Russia beat Greece as expected. Meanwhile, Poland must win or the co-hosts are out whatever happens in the other game. Finally, Greece can only qualify with victory and hope that Poland and the Czech Republic draw.

Confused yet?!

Join us for both games live from around 7pm UK time, with team news updates and pre-amble through the afternoon. There’s no Manchester United interest in this one, but the drama should be great nonetheless.



United Rant Live! Germany v Holland

June 13, 2012 Tags: , International 7 comments

Germany versus Holland in one of the iconic fixtures in the international football calendar, invoking memories of the 1974 World Cup final, and the feisty clash between the sides at the 1990 version of the competition. Those are just two in 38 fixtures between the countries that remain the best of enemies. There is unlikely to be any love lost when the sides meet once again, in Khakiv, at Euro 2012.

Following Holland’s surprise loss to Denmark on match-day one, Bert van Marwjick’s men desperately need the points in the industrial Ukrainian town, while Germany is looking to build on a narrow win over Portugal. Indeed, a Germany win will send Joachim Löw’s men into the next round, and Holland out of the tournament.

There’s tangential Manchester United interest in this clash, with the perennial tabloid column-filler Wesley Sneijder starting for Holland, while young midfielder Keving Strootman should also be involved. On the German side former United trainee Ron-Robert Zieler will be on the bench.

Join United Rant for our latest live blog at Euro 2012, with Ed and Jony Ball from around 7pm, with preamble and Portugal – Denmark updates 5pm.



United Rant Live! England v France

June 11, 2012 Tags: , International 2 comments

Eight years on from England’s 2-1 defeat to France at Euro 2004 and the sides meet again in Donetsk, Ukraine, late Monday afternoon. Once again France will start favourites to emerge victorious, with England hampered by injuries, a late change of manager, and a general lack of quality! But can Roy Hodgson’s men ‘park the bus’ against France and pull off an unlikely result?

There’s plenty of Manchester United interest in this one, with Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young set to start for the Three Lions, and Patrice Evra with France. Suspended Wayne Rooney will watch from the sidelines, while Phil Jones will be on England’s bench.

Join United Rant for our third live blog of the tournament, with Ed and Jony Ball from around 4.30pm, with news updates throughout the day.



Welbz and Young: England’s lone rangers

June 10, 2012 Tags: , , , International 32 comments

With Euro 2012 well under way attention has turned, momentarily Rant suspects, from the tittle-tattle of transfer market gossip to the world’s second biggest football tournament™, which is taking place in Poland and Ukraine over the next three weeks. In between bouts of organised racism, fans from 16 countries hope to witness some high quality football. Before Spain or Germany inevitably walk off with the trophy, of course.

There’s plenty of Manchester United-related interest in this one, with seven current players and six ex-Reds taking part – Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young, Phil Jones and Danny Welbeck for England, Patrice Evra with France, Anders Lindegaard with Denmark, and Nani with Portugal.

Many United supporters will also point to Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick’s bizarre exclusion from the England set-up. The former of whom had Roy Hodgson fluffing his lines in a BBC interview on Saturday, with the England coach now claiming that Ferdinand is “too good” to sit on the bench. There’s Rant thinking Rio might have been “too black” to be in the same squad as John Terry. But then, Rant is the cynical type.

England, meanwhile, enter an international tournament with the lowest expectations since Bobby Robson’s side lost all three group matches at Euro 1988 in Germany – to Holland, the Soviet Union and Ray Houghton’s Ireland. There’s unlikely to be much shock should England return home early once more after three difficult fixtures in the next 10 days.

And the start couldn’t be much tougher for Hodgson’s men, with a vibrant France the first opponents on Monday afternoon. The sight of the aforementioned Terry, reportedly carrying groin and hamstring injuries, trying to keep Karim Benzema, Franck Ribéry, Olivier Giroud, Hatem Ben Arfa and Samir Nasri at bay will surely bring a rueful smile to Ferdinand’s face. After all, while Terry is built like a tank, he also turns like one, to bastardise an infamous piece of mid-1990s commentary.

But there is hope for Hodgson’s men, with England set to follow Chelsea’s lead by ‘parking the bus’ against the French in Donetsk. It isn’t going to be pretty, but anti-football can be effective on occasion. The question is how does England strike the balance between allowing the few creative players to flourish, and carrying out Hodgson’s plan A – to make the Three Lions difficult to beat.

Indeed, United’s Welbeck and Young will likely be the focus of England’s attack for Hodgson’s side on Monday, with Liverpool’s Andy Carroll on the bench. Hodgson may be all for anti-football this summer, just not that anti-football it seems. The United duo should offer plenty of food for thought to France’s somewhat pedestrian central defensive partnership of Phillip Mexes and Adil Rami.

But all that pace and dynamism is wasted if England can’t get the ball into Young and Welbeck’s feet. Early reports suggest the technically limited Stewart Downing and James Milner are to be prefered to the more attacking, but defensively suspect, Arsenal duo of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott in wide areas. While Steven Gerard will play the central midfield position, at which he has never shown any tactical discipline, along side Scott Parker – a wholehearted but limited midfielder.

France’s inevitable midfield superiority will be hard on both Young and Welbeck, with the later in particular likely to spend long periods without the ball. It’s a challenge Young appears to have taken on with gusto. After all, the United winger has scored six in his last 10 internationals to become the national team’s leading man in Wayne Rooney’s absence. Young is once again set to take on Rooney’s ‘number 10’ role for the national team, with Welbeck leading the line.

“When you play for Manchester United, the pressure’s on every week,” Young told reporters on Sunday.

“Everyone wants to beat Manchester United, so when it comes to playing with pressure, it’s no problem. I enjoy having a challenge. I remember the manager, Sir Alex, saying to me when I first joined United that it would be a big challenge for me. I’ve played a whole season now and I’m full of confidence. I’m looking forward to Monday.

“I’m a versatile player. I have been throughout my career: up front, either wing or off a main striker. I want to be creative, to get on the ball, to play. That’s exactly what I’m looking to do on Monday. I played this role for a whole season at Aston Villa and I’ve played it [for England] in the last few games. I’ve been getting on the scoresheet, getting assists. It’s up to me to use my brain, be clever, find the pockets of space and get on the ball. I think I can do that.”

True, Young has excelled in the position for England in recent games, offering a direct, intelligent, and pacey style that will compliment Welbeck’s movement into the channels. Welbeck’s inclusion will also encourage England to play the ball on the ground at least. Carroll’s would surely do the exact opposite.

But this is England; this is international competitive, and waste possession is what every England side has done at recent tournaments. At least the ones England actually qualified for. It points to a lonely late-afternoon for United’s dynamic forward duo.

Meanwhile, former United defender and France coach Laurent Blanc is wary of Welbeck’s threat, while mindful of England’s likely negative mindset.

“They’ll drop back, have a bank of four with some quick players in there, and try and hit us on the break,” said Blanc.

“We need to be careful with that and make sure we’re not caught off guard. If there’s space in behind our back four, they’ll counter-attack. If they play Welbeck, we’ll have to leave him as little space as possible to exploit.

“But we’ll play our own style. If we sat back and waited for the English to come at us, it’d be 0-0 and we might end up only threatening to score a goal from a set-piece. No, there’ll be two very different philosophies on show and I hope the side that plays more football will win the game.”

Few, least of all England’s players, will bet on Hodgson’s side playing more football on Monday. But if the Three Lions are to get anything from the match, then United’s lonely forward duo surely hold the key.

United Rant Live! Ireland v Croatia

June 10, 2012 Tags: , International No comments

Join United Rant for the second live blog of Euro 2012 – Republic of Ireland v Croatia in Poznań, Poland.

There’s loads of United interest in this one, with John O’Shea, Darron Gibson, and Paul McShane likely to turn out for Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic side. Meanwhile, Croatia’s midfield is built around Tottenham Hotspur’s Luka Modric, the man Sir Alex Ferguson reportedly wants to bring to Old Trafford this summer.

Republic of Ireland versus Croatia, 10 June 2012, 19.45 (BST), Poznań, Poland.