Welbz and Young: England’s lone rangers



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.

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  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    will hodgson let young cheat to help us win

  • sidney

    Will the England fans

    Yeah, of course they will

  • sidney

    Oxbridge is gonna start

    They’ll never know what hit ‘em etc. when he stands on the ball and runs it out of play

  • http://www.unitedrant.co.uk/members/danniitronix/ danniitronix

    sidney said:
    Oxbridge is gonna start

    They’ll never know what hit ‘em etc. when he stands on the ball and runs it out of play

    He is the only reason to take an interest in England. He’s gonna be good, I’m telling you!

  • Newton Heath RED

    Let us hope the united players all come through unscathed!

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    Attack of the Klingon!!!

    Get in!

  • Spudiator

    1-0 up with nearly an hour still to play and Clive Tyldsley’s already talking about the significance of the goal and all that crap, is he actually trying to tempt fate?!

  • han

    harry potter strikes for england

  • han

    fuck off nasri
    cock hart beaten on his near post twat

  • bman

    I thought Hart looked tentative and shaky from the start, that was a soft goal to give away. England might need to change something, they looked a bit out of the game after scoring the goal. Milner is very ineffective on the right offensively and defensively, maybe putting Walcott on would be a good idea.

  • sidney

    France’s front players need to get their shit together. You have 4 or 5 players stood still when they’re on the ball, and no one up front because Benzema is ambling all over the place. Maybe it’s the heat, but if they run more, and move more, they will tie England up in knots

  • han

    some fit looking frogs out there

  • sheesh

    I can’t watch this and have missed most of Euro 2012 because of work. I hope Welbeck is impressing.

  • sidney

    This is easily the worst game of the Euros so far

    There is no atmosphere

  • sidney

    England with two proper strikers on now

    I just want something to happen

  • han

    that referee must be blanc’s step brother
    blind as a bat except when it comes to giving the french the benefit of the doubt

  • sidney

    Awful game, both sides settled for a draw from the off

  • squigs

    Heat must have had a massive effect but it was like a testimonial game.

  • madredmonkey

    1-1 ok result, but was it me or were both teams crap, it was for me the poorest game of the tournament for excitement so far.

  • chocolatteballs

    sidney said:
    This is easily the worst game of the Euros so far

    There is no atmosphere

    I only saw highlights but I think Rep Ireland v Croatia was easily the worst match so far and I’m Irish.

    People actually spent thousands to travel to Poland to watch that lol.

    I thought England put up a show at least and I even thought I saw occasions when they passed it about a bit, hadn’t seen that in years.
    Parker has made a difference already.

    We need a defensive mid like that at Utd ( albeit slightly better like).

  • http://twitter.com/dosdamt Ben Hulston

    No. Just no. Scott Parker is a fair enough player, but the reason he is always throwing himself in front of things and diving into tackles is because he can’t see 2 – 3 passes ahead in the game and is always reacting to danger. Sure, it might get the pundits of ITV’s disasterzone coverage salivating like retarded dogs at a bone fair, but not good enough for United. Carrick is infinitely better, and that’s before you mention Parker’s distribution which was painfully average last night.

  • Spudiator

    I do find it laughable sometimes how lacking in objectiveness some England fans are. A fan on another forum (who was only about 16 I think) was accusing me of being a plastic fan yesterday because I dared to criticise the performance of the team for being boring to watch. I watch football hoping (not expecting, sadly) to be entertained. If I wanted to watch a boring sport I’d be a cricket fan!

    Trouble with a lot of England fans, it seems, is they can’t seem to tell the difference between acknowledging a team’s limitations, and accepting them. It’s one thing to say “fair enough, we’re a shit team so a draw’s not so bad after all”, but this statistic keep being bounced around that England haven’t beaten a top side in a major tournament for 10 years now is a disturbing one, considering we’re supposedly the 6th best team in the world (according to FIFA’s bullshit rankings, at least) and this poor run has coincided with the emergence and then dominance of the so-called golden generation. Now as I said, I can acknowledge this England team’s obvious limitations, but to accept them would be defeatist, and if we’re not good enough to win it, why not at least try and lay the groundwork so the next generation of players emerging might be?

  • chocolatteballs

    Ben Hulston said:
    No. Just no. Scott Parker is a fair enough player, but the reason he is always throwing himself in front of things and diving into tackles is because he can’t see 2 – 3 passes ahead in the game and is always reacting to danger. Sure, it might get the pundits of ITV’s disasterzone coverage salivating like retarded dogs at a bone fair, but not good enough for United. Carrick is infinitely better, and that’s before you mention Parker’s distribution which was painfully average last night.

    As a Defensive midfielder ,sorry .Parker is infinitely better than Carrick.
    Carrick isn’t a defensive midfielder. He’s a ‘special’ midfielder who needs an attacking mid in front if him and a defensive mid behind him.

    And against decent European teams he either passes it backwards or gives it away. Glen Whealen actually did a stellar impersonation of him against Croatia.

    We need a proper defensive midfielder(I’m not saying or didn’t say we need Scot Parker).But If that kind of player is good enough for teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid it should be good enough for us.

  • bman

    chocolatteballs said:
    I only saw highlights but I think Rep Ireland v Croatia was easily the worst match so far and I’m Irish.

    People actually spent thousands to travel to Poland to watch that lol.

    I thought England put up a show at least and I even thought I saw occasions when they passed it about a bit, hadn’t seen that in years.
    Parker has made a difference already.

    We need a defensive mid like that at Utd ( albeit slightly better like).

    Yeah it was just embarrassing really. When you see the quality of players we have though, it’s actually very impressive that Trap got us to the finals at all. But yeah, we’re probably the shittest team at the tournament, the quality of our players is nowhere near that of a decade ago, let alone two decades ago.

  • bman

    It’s just fucking madness that Carrick is not at the heart of the English team. Maybe if he was coming off a duff season you could justify it, but it’s pretty much indefensible. The shocking lack of quality in the middle of the pitch for England is striking even when the team plays pretty “well” like yesterday; england’s midfield makes Utd’s look like Barca. The only sensible approach would be to have Parker and Carrick as a defensive midfield pairing, with probably Gerrard in front of them and Welbeck in front of him. Young and one of Walcott/Ox on the wings. That way you can let Gerrard off the leash, he’s wasted otherwise.

  • squigs

    chocolatteballs said:
    I only saw highlights but I think Rep Ireland v Croatia was easily the worst match so far and I’m Irish.

    People actually spent thousands to travel to Poland to watch that lol.

    I thought England put up a show at least and I even thought I saw occasions when they passed it about a bit, hadn’t seen that in years.
    Parker has made a difference already.

    We need a defensive mid like that at Utd ( albeit slightly better like).

    Probably the biggest game in 10 years for Ireland and you only watched highlights.

    If you watched the full game yes you would have spotted the obvious shortcomings of the Irish team but Croatia played well and wasn’t a bad game.

    France v England second half taking on the first half of Germany v Portugal for worst games of the tournament so far.

    Spain v Italy was brilliant for a 1-1 draw.

  • sidney

    England fans want a highlights player rather than a classy ball player. The bellends who only watch football when a major tournament is on want someone who looks good on an montage with Snow Patrol playing in the background.
    Carrick isn’t likable because he’s the type of footballer we passionately detest (aka one that plays football) and he does virtually no press and keeps himself to himself. If he came out and said ‘I just want to play for the shirt’ and ‘it’s the highest honour’ and ‘they don’t like it up ‘em’ we’d love him, and he’d be in the team tomorrow.
    And tbf Carrick has been shite for England when he’s played. But then 15 starts in 10 or so years is probably why he looks like he can’t be arsed on the pitch.
    Also throw into that how England fans boo when their team pass the ball between defence and midfield – his area – then you realise a player like Carrick isn’t going to have an England career.

  • marlon

    In the First round of matches, we had the fewest shots (5), fewest sots on target (1) and 2nd lowest possession (35%). How has this game made people more optimistic of our chances?

  • squigs

    Because they didn’t lose and at least appeared much better organised then previous England teams.

  • chocolatteballs

    squigs said:
    Probably the biggest game in 10 years for Ireland and you only watched highlights.

    If you watched the full game yes you would have spotted the obvious shortcomings of the Irish team but Croatia played well

    I saw the highlights of the England game squigs it was on at an earlier time

    I saw all of Ireland’s game(from the pub). The problem with trap is that it difficult to watch a team that’s only chance of scoring is either a corner or a free kick. Those crude tactics weren’t necessary against Croatia. I can understand that approach against Spain though.

    I’m not gonna criticize the players Squigs but Gibson and Coleman are always gonna be better than Whealan and Ward who are most visibly out of their depth. Alot if players just don’t get selected at all in that team for no apparent reason.

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    hoolahan should be in the squad too

    england have the best defence in this tournament

    that’s why we’ll win it

  • squigs

    People point to Wes Hoolahan been the future and he is 30 and then say Robbie Keane is past it at 31. It’s a flawed logic, it’s unfortunate McCarthy dropped out as he represents now and the future I feel.

    I wouldn’t rush to bring in Gibson, Ward is a left back so Coleman is irrelevant. Would prefer Ciaran Clark from Villa though.

    Trap shows incredible loyalty to players who fit his system, a system which is greater then the sum of it’s parts and feels reluctant to tinker with it. He has proved a lot of fans wrong, I can remember all the calls for Andy Reid and look at Reid now.