Nani

Dozen Reds head to the World Cup

As ever it was an international break of contrasting emotions. There is, of course, the tedium that international football sometimes brings, especially in Europe where identikit sides play out a standard of football that does not always compare well to the continental club game. Still, with places at next summer’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil at stake there was real tension in dozens of qualifying games across the globe. Not least for the dozen or so Manchester United players for whom next summer may bring glory, or an extended break.

And with the conclusion of the qualifying round – save for the few remaining play-offs – up to a dozen Reds will go to the World Cup in Brazil, with another handful hoping to make it through a final eliminator.

At home Roy Hodgson’s England qualified, in the end, with some ease, beating Montenegro and Poland in a double-header to clinch top spot in UEFA Group H. While England’s quality and playing style has been oft-criticised since an abominable showing at Euro 2012, Hodgson can legitimately point to a gradually improving side.

England is certainly some way short of the very best, but draw dependent will hope to qualify for the knock-out stages in Brazil, although a FIFA ranking of 10 means that Hodgson’s side will not be seeded.

Wayne Rooney scored the crucial opener in England’s 2-0 victory over Poland at Wembley on Tuesday, with Danny Welbeck and Michael Carrick also certain to be on the plane. Rooney’s strike against Poland was his 38th England goal – a sixth in eight matches this year – and a one scored without the protective headband worn in recent weeks.

“I went for a header just before the goal and it got knocked off,” said the 27-year-old, who is on course to beat Bobby Charlton’s England scoring record of 49 goals.

“Then I chased back and it was obviously still up there on the pitch as I didn’t have time to go back and get it. It probably helped me in some ways that it was off when the ball came in because I could direct it better. It is the first time I have headed the ball without it on, but hopefully come the weekend I won’t have to wear it.”

Chris Smalling and Phil Jones should also make the party, with Tom Cleverley’s participation very much dependent on the 23-year-old sealing a place in David Moyes’ United team. Ashley Young is seemingly out of favour at both club and international level, with Wilfried Zaha relegated to the under-21s for the time being.

However, former Red Ravel Morrison’s form is such that the West Ham United player could yet be a surprise call-up for the full team ahead of the World Cup.

Elsewhere in Europe there were mixed fortunes for Reds. David de Gea’s Spain qualified with predictable ease, although the 22-year-old ‘keeper will only go to Brazil if one or more of Vicente del Bosque’s first choice stoppers pulls out with injury. That said there is a legitimate observation that while Spain boasts strength in goalkeeping depth there are doubts about each of the leading contenders: Iker Casillas, Pepe Reina and Victor Valdes.

On the island of Ireland both north and south missed out on World Cup qualification. The Republic’s chances were officially extinguished by Germany last week, although in reality qualification has long since been a forlorn hope. Worse news came for former Red Darron Gibson who suffered a serious knee injury and is likely to miss the rest of the season.

In the north Jonny Evans was sent off against Azerbaijan as the Ulstermen finished fifth in a group of six, with qualification for a first major tournament since 1982 seemingly no nearer.

Meanwhile, in continental Europe Belgium beat Croatia in Zagreb to seal qualification, before playing out a tame 1-1 draw with Wales in Brussels. Marouanne Fellaini will be on the plane to Rio, although the midfielder’s disciplinary record is a genuine concern – United’s £27.5 million player missed the fixture with Wales due to suspension.

Youthful star Adnan Januzaj has a legitimate shot at making the Belgium squad, continued development permitting, although the 18-year-old has consistently refused call-ups at youth level. The Brussels-born winger is Kosovar-Albanian by parentage and eligible for Belgium, Albania, Serbia and the non-affiliated Kosovo at international level.

Neighbours Holland qualified undefeated as Robin van Persie became the leading scorer in the country’s history with a hat-trick in the Oranje’s 8-1 mauling of Hungary last week. van Persie’s 41 goals in 81 internationals now beats Patrick Kluivert’s 40 in 79.

“My record had to be broken eventually,” Kluivert told Dutch television.

“I’m delighted because Robin and I work together ahead of each international. It’s only a pleasure for me as an assistant coach that he scores so often. I held the record for 10 years and I’m really proud of that.”

Elsewhere Patrice Evra and Nani will face play-off eliminators in November, with France and Portugal finishing second in Groups F and I. The play-off draw takes place on Monday, with a clash between the two European heavyweights possible. Croatia, Sweden, Ukraine, Romania, Iceland, and Greece make up the eight European teams fighting for the final four spots in Brazil.

In South American Antonio Valencia’s Ecuador qualified for Brazil 2014 with a 1-0 victory over Uruguay, although La Tri lost a final CONMEBOL fixture away at Ángelo Henríquez’ Chile in Santiago. Henríquez has scored twice in three full internationals to date, but is only an outside bet to make the final World Cup squad.

Finally, hosts Brazil beat South Korea and Zambia in friendlies this week. Neither of the da Silva brothers made the Seleção or is likely to unless injuries force manager Luiz Felipe Scolari’s hand.

Further north Javier Hernández sat on the bench as Mexico had the United States to thank for a World Cup lifeline. El Tricolor’s dismal qualification campaign will conclude with a play-off against Oceana’s New Zealand in November, but Mexico remain in the competition only after the USA scored twice in the last three minutes to beat Panama 3-2 in Panama City on Tuesday.

Hernández will go should Mexico qualify, but a starting place is no longer guaranteed. The 25-year-old has scored 35 goals in 53 internationals, but has featured in just two Premier League games for David Moyes this season.

In Asia Japan long since qualified for the World Cup, although Shinji Kagawa complained after the Japanese lost to both Serbia and Belarus in friendlies this week. The United midfielder believes that lack of domestic football is negatively affecting his performances at international level. It is a patter at Old Trafford that threatens to cause much disquiet among Moyes’ squad.

“There’s a matter of fitness and there’s also that atmosphere of playing for my country,” Kagawa said.

“Maybe it’s because I’m not used to being on the pitch of late, but I didn’t feel like I was able to enter these two games properly. I felt strongly after these two matches that I need to play more.”

The same might be said for Cleverley, Smalling, Jones and Hernández – one of many challenges facing Moyes in a year when everyone wants to play.

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  1. The_Philosopher says

    I can’t think of anything more stupid than that stupid head band Rooney has been wearing.

    He should have taken it off weeks ago. Its such a retarded over kill that doesn’t do much to mask the fact that it was a frivolous claim that Rooney was “injured”

    Its like saying “Look he was soooo injured that he still has to wear this retarded head band”

    What a joke

  2. The_Philosopher says

    In a season when everyone wants to play Moyes has stuck with Valencia who is clearly under performing.

    And Moyes has let Zaha, who looks a real live wire, languish on the bench.

    I don’t know why Moyes is being so conservative. There is nothing to lose because we lose regularly now anyways.

    Why not take a risk and play the youngsters?

    Here’s a great experimental line up for the Capital One Cup games.

    Chicharito up front.

    Kagawa in the hole at number ten behind Chicha

    Nani out on the left flank.

    Januzaj and Cleverley in central midfield.

    Zaha out wide on the right.

    Buttner, Evans, Jones, Rafael at the back

    De Gea in goal.

    We have so much attacking potential in this side a line up like that could score a lot of goals.

  3. The_Philosopher says

    Now that the international break is done and dusted we are heading into a sustained period of domestic football.

    The next run of games will reveal even more about David Moyes.

    The United calendar shows the we have 2 champion’s league games against Real Sociedad and 1 capital one cup game against Norwich City interspersed with the the 3 premier league games against Southampton, Stoke City and Fulham in the build up to the Arsenal encounter. So there is plenty of room for rotation.

    I hope to see Wilfred Zaha playing in at least one of these games. To keep such a talent on the bench seems a travesty of our culture of youth development.

    The games are going to come thick and fast now. This next passage of fixtures will give us even more insight into the managerial mettle of David Moyes.

    Issues he has yet to handle satisfactorily for me are as follows:

    1) Where does he see Shinji Kagawa fitting into this squad?

    The Scotsman has so far been unimpressed by Kagawa and has limited his involvement to a few appearances on the wings. Wing play is not Shinji’s forte but our all knowing manager seems content to play him there and expect him to produce results because that’s where he has played for Japan.

    What David Moyes conveniently overlooks is Shinji’s history at Dortmund where has a solid track record as their playmaker.

    Not only has Moyes played Kagawa out of position but he has also substituted the diminutive Japanese prematurely just as he is about to find his rhythm in a game.

    To play someone out of position, limit their playing time and then tell them that they haven’t done much to impress you and that you expect better says to me that David Moyes has little to no appreciation for the caliber of player he has in Shinji Kagawa.

    So this next run of games will be the next chapter in the Freenji saga and Moyes has not shown any promising signs on this score.

    2) The mysterious benching of Wilfred Zaha.

    Zaha showed lots of potential on pre-season tour and looked a comfortable fit for the right flank after some impressive performances considering the context of Valencia’s below par season last year.

    So when he was dropped to make way for the more experienced but substandard Antonio Valencia there were one or two eyebrows raised but Moyes was given the benefit of the doubt because he was coming starting his season with a tough run of games and was seeking to steady the ship.

    But after it became clear as the games were being scratched off the calendar that Valencia was not producing the goods Zaha was still not played. Not even for a ten minute cameo at the end of a game.

    Given our struggle to create goal scoring opportunities the shut out that’s seen Wilfred Zaha on the bench for the whole season thus far is baffling.

    Inexperience is not a valid excuse for me either because even Alex Buttner has gotten a full 90min in the premier league. How could playing Wilfred Zaha be riskier than that?

    3) And finally will we play adventurous and attacking football or will David Moyes continue in his conservative vein?

    So far this season Moyes has had us playing like sheep instead of the lions we are.

    Moyes showed no ambition against City and Chelsea and chose rather to play not to lose instead of going for the jugular.

    When you’re managing a team like Everton I can understand how having a limited squad can force you to take a more pragmatic approach in encounters against the game’s elite clubs.

    But when you are at the helm of one of those elite clubs what excuse do you have not to attack? What further encouragement do you need to take the initiative?

    It’s disappointing. It is stomach churning to watch a manager of a world class club like Manchester United acquiesce to defeat even before a ball has been kicked.

    And it’s even worse to see the confused and frustrated looks on the players faces, the champions of England, when they lose because they were forced to execute a set of instructions that didn’t read “kill kill kill!”

    Transfer bungles and foot-in-mouth PR blunders aside, David Moyes has been poor.

    I expect more from a Manchester United manager.

  4. sid says

    A few concerns…..
    numbered by d priority of d concern
    1) Shinji Kagawa
    jst for a moment if we say that Shinji cant play d playmaker in dis team cz Wayne Rooney has dat position can b understud…..bt where i get hazy is wen fellaini cant play d attacking midfielder role n shinji is nt evn considered for it if nt overlooked…..he shud b in d central midfield position…..n m dead sure he prove moyes wrong dee….n as far as moyes’ statement dat he thinks shinji dint perform well r baseless….d reason being he has performed better on d flank than any1 except nani n d last performance of janujaz….playing welbeck on d flank is baseless n stupid….he as I’ve said in earlier post is more of an athlete dan a footballer….n if Rooney is playing second striker den surely Kagawa shud play d no. 10 role….moyes really needs to check d talent he has n den come out saying dat we need more signings…..i think we hv perfect team shud moyes know how to use dem…
    2) Wilfred Zaha
    i jst wanna say dat d guy deserves at least 20 minute cameo to at least show d potential he has….m sure if dat doesn’t happen he’ll follow pogba….
    3) Robin Van Persie
    i jst think his form is diminishing (he’s returned strongly frm d international break bt still)
    4) Antonio Valencia , Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck
    these players r not united level….if moyes needs signings he shud sell dese 3 n buy gud players….Wesley Sneijder is willing to move in January….mats hummels n Paul pogba too r willing to move….moyes needs to sell dese 3 n pounce now

  5. Martin the Nairobian says

    moyes needs to #freeshinji onto the pitch or lose him in January or the summer ..then he’s going to shine for someone else who knows how to use this little genius player.it doesn’t matter if its Rooney on the bench,kagawa should be our playmaker. We’ve been struggling all season to score from open play.kagawa is definitely the answer. not on the wing.but as our number 10.

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