There are a few Reds with a very busy summer ahead. Ten Manchester United players will head to the European Championships in France, with varying roles and aspirations for the month of international fun ahead. While Memphis Depay, Daley Blind, and Michael Carrick get the summer off, their teammates jet off to France in search of glory. Rant dives into what we can expect…
The England squad features club and international captain Wayne Rooney, who leads the Lions’ charge in France. He is aided by teammates Chris Smalling and tournament debutant Marcus Rashford, who was a surprising addition to Roy Hodgson’s squad.
Rooney and Smalling are likely to play leading roles in the squad, with Hodgson’s team built around England’s record scorer despite calls to drop the Scouser, while Smalling if first choice in the back four. Whether Rashford makes an impact remains to be seen, although the explosive nature of his season at club level suggests that Hodgson will make use of the youngster from the bench. England’s opening match in Group B is against Russia, followed by games with Wales and Slovakia.
Paddy McNair is the other British Red heading to the tournament. After an underwhelming season at club level, where he struggled to break into the first team, McNair will be a mainstay in the Northern Irish team. The Northern Irish side faces a tough group including world champions Germany, Poland and Ukraine. With José Mourinho likely to keep a close eye on who performs well in France, McNair is not short of motivation. Not least since United completed a £30 million move for Villarreal defender Eric Bailly this week.
Bastian Schweinsteiger is also fighting for form, fitness and a place in the German side heading into the tournament. Schweinsteiger captains the 2014 World Cup winners, but heads into the tournament with injury concerns having not featured for United in the second half of the season. The Germans, just like their leader, have suffered with injury recently. Marco Reus and Ilkay Gundogan will both miss the tournament.
Matteo Darmian suffered a disastrous season in terms of his fitness and is under similar pressure to prove that he has a future at United. The defender is first choice at right-back or right wing-back for the Italians, with his versatility important in an otherwise poor team. Italian coach Antonio Conte leaves for Chelsea after the tournament, which could well end at the group stage with Italy facing the Republic of Ireland, including former Red John O’Shea, Sweden and Belgian in Group E.
Meanwhile, it may not matter if Marouane Fellaini performs well or not for Belgium, with his future at Old Trafford more than likely coming to an end. The giant midfielder is a pariah to fans, with discipline and technical issues meaning he’s never been a good fit in three seasons at the club. Fellaini has also slipped out of Belgium’s first team, with coach Marc Wilmots finally working out that the midfielder is neither good in an attacking role nor a defensive one. Fellaini will be a useful substitute for a Belgian side that plays within itself despite boasting talent such as Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, and Romelu Lukaku.
David De Gea is keen to cement his place as the number one ‘keeper in Spain, although manager Vicente Del Bosque is seemingly undecided between the world’s best stopper or long-term incumbent Iker Casillas. The former Real Madrid player has struggled to justify his place at club and international level, meaning this might be the tournament De Gea finally puts that argument to rest. Spain faces Croatia, Czech Republic and Turkey in Group D.
In Group A France includes Morgan Schneiderlin as a last-minute call-up for the injury-prone Lassana Diarra. Schneiderlin is unlikely to start, with Johan Cabaye and N’Golo Kante vying for a single place. The hosts start the tournament without striker Karim Benzema, who has been caught up in a long-running criminal case, and was dropped amid accusations of racism at the French FA. Plus ça change!
If Schneiderlin spends the summer on the bench, then Anthony Martial is a serious contender to be the breakout star of the tournament. The forward’s dribbling has mesmerised Old Trafford this season, and if the United youngster continues that form it’ll go a long way to helping the French live up to the billing as tournament favourites.
Of course a tournament doesn’t come without risks for both players and United. Rashford will enjoy valuable time gaining international experience, simply training with his national team, in addition to any minutes he may get. Yet, considering the heavy workload he enjoyed, without a rest, towards the back-end of last season, the youngster might have benefited from a summer off.
Darmian and Schweinsteiger might also share similar concerns, although both could do with building fitness ahead of pre-season. Neither will want yet another injury though in what could bring seven games inside a month. At least Darmian does not have a long history of injuries, unlike his more illustrious team-mate.
Some players may even enjoy the break from club football, with Louis van Gaal draining the confidence of more than one player heading to the tournament. The Euros could be a positive step forward for Schneiderlin, Darmian and McNair. Excellent performances could even help find the trio a spot in Mourinho’s squad next season.
Then there’s the possibility that one or more Reds might head back to Manchester as European Champions. But who might it be?