During the summer Rant will provide comprehensive coverage of the FIFA World Cup, held in South Africa, with unashamed red tinted specs. Manchester United will have nine participants at the finals – England’s Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and Wes Brown; Patrice Evra of France; South Korea’s Ji-Sung Park; Nemanja Vidic and Zoran Tosic from Serbia; and Nani with the Portugal squad.
During the tournament, which kicks off on 11 June with hosts South Africa taking on Mexico and ends in Johannesburg a month later, Rant will debate the key issues of the day on the blog, provide in-depth analysis on our weekly World Cup Rant Cast and offer readers the chance to join in on the website’s groups.
Last night, in what for most countries was the final friendly before coaches name provisional World Cup squads, nine United players were on international duty:
Wayne Rooney, Wes Brown and Michael Carrick: England 3-1 Egypt
Rooney had a quiet and at times frustrating night for England. Out of the game in the first half, Rooney was livelier in the second period before departing the game with a few minutes to spare. Brown, meanwhile, was solid in defence if wasteful in possession during the first half.
Carrick’s night was perhaps the most productive in an England shirt as the classy midfielder clawed England back into the game by doing something alien to the England team – passing the ball!
Patrice Evra: France 0-2 Spain
The Spanish team is head and shoulders above the rest at the moment and Evra must hope that hapless coach Raymond Domenech can bring some order to the apparent chaos in the French camp before the summer. David Villa and Sergio Ramos scored for the Spanish who must start as favourites for the tournament.
Nani: Portugal 2-0 China
Hugo Almeida and Liedson scored the Portuguese goals, although reports suggest an impressive outing for the United winger before being substituted after a little more than an hour.
Mame Biram Diouf: Senegal 2-0 Greece
Diouf played 20 minutes in the African’s win over the 2004 European champions. Senegal, who did not qualify for South Africa, introduced the United reserve team sensation to good effect late in the game but the striker failed to get on the scoresheet.
Corry Evans: Northern Ireland 0-1 Albania
Jonny Evans’ younger brother was impressive as a second half substitute for the Northern Irish. Evans, who can operate in defence or midfield for United, made his début in the disappointing loss to the Eastern European minnows.
Park Ji-Sung: South Korea 2-0 Ivory Coast
South Korea’s captain continued his good recent form as his team beat the African giants at Loftus Road of all places. Lee Dong-Gook and Kwak Tae-Hwi scored the goals for the World Cup qualifiers.
Darren Fletcher: Scotland 1-0 Czech Republic
Fletcher, Scotland’s captain, helped ensure a winning start to new manager Craig Levein’s tenure at Hampden Park. The Czech’s are not the force of old but right now any win for Fletcher’s side is a bonus. Celtic’s Scott Brown scored the only goal just after the hour.
Darron Gibson: Republic of Ireland 0-2 Brazil
Gibson got half an hour against a functional Brazil side, which will be among the favourites for World Cup 2010 but are not the entertainers of old. But Gibson played second fiddle to Manchester City’s Robinho as the Selecao ran out comfortable winners at the Emirates
Tomasz Kuszczak, Dimitar Berbatov: Poland 2-0 Bulgaria
Team-mates pitted against each other in Eastern Europe as the Polish ‘keeper gained dressing-room bragging rights in a comfortable win. Kuszczak, who showed impressive United form before Edwin van der Sar’s return, made a series of saves against Berbatov’s World Cup flops