You know the drill. Skip England’s latest embarrassment, bolster hipster credentials by catching American Samoa versus Cook Islands at the Loto-Tonga Soka, wait a fortnight for United’s next game. International week: too often football’s equivalent to watching paint dry. Except, of course, for the diverse collection of Reds in action this week, leaving the kids, the retired and Bastian Schweinsteiger to train at Carrington ahead of United’s fixture with Liverpool next Monday night.
Rio Ferdinand’s humiliation at the hands of Fabio Capello this week is not only total and deliberate but it should also lead to the 32-year-old defender’s international retirement. After all, Ferdinand’s pride at being made England captain in the wake of John Terry’s affair with Vanessa Perroncel has been shattered at the hand of Capello’s boorish mismanagement. Publicly defenestrated with no just cause, Ferdinand can now achieve little by remaining with the national team.
Capello’s decision to return the England captaincy to John Terry after “a year of punishment” – as the Italian put it – is not only deeply insensitive but threatens to split the England camp. Not every player under Capello’s management, it is said, shares the former AC Milan coach’s predilection for Terry’s peculiarly British form of captaincy.
“One year is enough punishment for anyone,” Capello said on Friday.
“In that time, Terry has come to understand the mistake he made. And I have come to understand the importance of the England captain in this country. Now is time to forgive. From the moment I came in, he was always my number one choice as captain.”
Yet, the crass manner in which the news was leaked to the media without so much as a phone call to the now former England captain is seemingly typical of Capello’s bumbling handling of the England team. That the manager first failed to inform each party of his decision before telling journalists – and as it turns out lying to Ferdinand over the permanent nature of the switch – is grounds for dismissal in itself. It can do little to foster a camp spirit that will take England beyond the severe technical limitations inherent in the squad.
It begs the question of what Ferdinand is likely to gain by adding to his 80 caps in a subservient position to Terry, and under Capello’s unique leadership. England, drawn in a favourable group for Euro 2014 qualification, will surely reach the tournament in Poland and Ukraine only to be knocked out of the tournament at the hands of the first decent outfit it faces. The truth of this predication was amply demonstrated last summer in South Africa – a tournament that Ferdinand was retrospectively fortunate to miss.
Even more importantly Ferdinand should now consider his place in the Manchester United squad as his priority. Indeed, Ferdinand’s position at Old Trafford is devalued by persistent injuries over the past two years. Now into his 30s and beset by ongoing physical problems, Ferdinand would surely do well to follow the lead set by Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Dimitar Berbatov and Park Ji-Sung in retiring from the international game. After all, retirement has prolonged the United careers of Scholes and Giggs, and prompted the best campaign of Berbatov’s time at Old Trafford.
Predictably, Sir Alex Ferguson refused to be drawn on the issue when meeting the media at Carrington on Thursday morning. Privately, it is seemingly inconceivable that the 69-year-old United manager will not have raised the spectre of international retirement with Ferdinand.
And while some elements of the nation’s media might position an early retirement as ‘throwing his toys out of the pram’ Ferdinand is well within the bounds of reason to no longer work with Capello on principal alone. Indeed, the former West Ham United player is reportedly deeply insulted with the Italian coaches actions – as he should be.
Yet, far from apologise for his handling of a delicate matter Capello has – quite unbelievably – chosen to lay the blame at Ferdinand’s door, accusing the United defender of not meeting his at Old Trafford following the Reds’ victory over Marseille last Tuesday. It was a meeting that was never formally arranged, according to the player. It’s not for the first time Capello has played fast and loose with the truth some might add.
This, of course, is Capello all over. The man who, under pressure during the World Cup, turned the England hotel into a monkish prison camp, heaping pressure on his players. Capello also chose the post World Cup period to launch another crass invention – the ‘Capello Index’ in which the Italian would publicly rate and slate his players. Then, in a crime perhaps on a par with his humiliation of Ferdinand this week, the coach ‘retired’ David Beckham to the nation’s media without consulting the player himself.
Ferguson would never treat a player in this matter – at least not one that mattered to him. And that is an important point. Capello is not blessed with a swathe of proven defenders in Ferdinand’s class. Indeed, Terry has been repeatedly exposed at international lever, no matter how forceful the British Bulldog bluster.
This fact offers Ferdinand the opportunity to leave the international game with his pride and dignity intact, head held high, self-esteem stronger than ever. The Londoner has fought to build his reputation both as a respected member of the footballing community and a campaigner. For his many faults and mistakes, Ferdinand is worth more than the lack of respect shown by Capello this week.
The World Cup ended on Sunday with Spain the predictable champions after 64 matches, 145 goals and not enough red cards in the final. But what lessons can Manchester United fans draw from the tournament that will go down as one dominated by negative tactics even if the best team eventually triumphed in Johannesburg?
After all football is cyclical with trends in tournaments often rapidly spreading across the European and Global game. Indeed, innovation and evolution in tactics, staff and approach is one of the major reasons Sir Alex Ferguson has remained in the game so long.
Possession, possession, possession
This is hardly new but the higher the competition level the more possession counts. Unless you’re Inter Milan that is. Spain is the finest exponent of the possession game in a generation and without Jose Mourinho in the tournament only Switzerland – more through luck than judgement – was able to shut out the Spanish. The question is – will European football look to the narcissistic Portuguese coach or Spain as the benchmark for future tactical developments? Two-team La Liga is in for a fascinating race next season, while Barcelona will surely begin the Champions League season as strong favourites to regain the title.
United’s tendency to move from back to front quickly is somewhat anathema to the Spanish style. Indeed, United fell behind Chelsea last season in terms of both successful passes and average possession. In World Cup terms United under Ferguson is far closer to Germany than Spain. Let’s hope third place isn’t the season’s outcome!
4-4-2 is dead, long live 4-2-3-1
While Uruguay used two forwards up to the semi-final although not in it, three of the last four deployed the tactical system de jour right throughout the tournament. Indeed, Spain and Holland pushed the system a step further and used wide players on the ‘wrong’ flanks, much like Barcelona over the past two seasons. While tactical trends are cyclical, modern football, played a pace but with an emphasis on ball retention, has evolved a system fit for purpose.
At United Ferguson has transitioned his team from a rigid 4-4-2 of the ’90s to a modern 4-2-3-1 over a number of seasons, reaching its flexible zenith as Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez reeked havoc across Europe in 2008. Last season Rooney spearheaded the attack with Nani and Antonio Valencia offering more traditional wide options. United’s problem is finding an alternative to Rooney at the head of the team’s attack, with both Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen not suited to the role. United fans will have noted with interest that Javier Hernández began Mexico’s last 16 tie with Argentina in that very role.
The play-maker rules
Wesley Sneijder, Mesut Özil, Xavi Hernandez, Andreas Iniesta… dominated the tournament, given the freedom to attack and create by a solid defensive base. The widespread tactical shift to deploying two defensive midfielders – Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets for Spain, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khadeira for Germany, Nigel de Jong and Mark van Bommel for Holland – also enables the freedom for a playmaker deployed between the lines.
United deployed the system for much of last season with Darren Fletcher accompanied by one of Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes or Anderson for most the campaign. Ferguson’s clear problem is in the creative department with Scholes’ ageing legs now ushered into one final season. The Scot has also deployed Ryan Giggs ‘in the hole’, with more success in 2008/9 than last year. Darron Gibson, who may play more often in the attacking midfield role, is hardly in the same class.
It’s the precise reason the speculated bid for Wesley Sneijder got United fans so excited. But with the Dutchman committing his future to Inter, Özil declaring that he will stay with Werder Bremen and Xavi and Iniesta un-buyable, Ferguson has limited options.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing
Diego Forlán, Gerard Piqué and even Carlos Tevez excelled in South Africa. Tim Howard, Jonathan Spector, Juan Sebatian Veron, Gabriel Heinze, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kleberson also played in the tournament this summer. It’s hard to offer Sir Alex too much criticism though. Forlán has built a superb career after leaving United in 2004 but his performances in the Red shirt hardly merited anything else. The right club at the wrong time for super Diego.
Given Rio Ferdinand’s injuries and Nemanja Vidic’s apparent desire to move on, Ferguson will regret allowing Piqué to leave Old Trafford. Whether the Scot had much of a choice is now moot of course. Piqué had negotiated with Barcelona behind Ferguson’s back and the Scot, furious, threatened to kill the deal. In the end Sir Alex took a practical view – Piqué lay behind Ferdinand, Vidic and Evans in the Old Trafford pecking order.
The ‘A’ list failed but new stars were born
Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaká, Fernando Torres and even Lionel Messi failed to produce on the biggest stage in South Africa. But others did well in their wake. Thomas Müller and Özil are now a world stars, Uruguay’s Diego Lugano and Jorge Fucile were superb defensively, Gregory van der Wiel will have earned a big money move, United’s Javier Hernández showed glimpses of his talent, Asamoah Gyan will get another shot at the big time and Schweinsteiger emerged as a defensive midfielder of true world class.
No United players are any good!
Well none made it beyond the second round at least, with the Red contingent all heading off on an extended summer break. Ferdinand, Michael Carrick and Nani didn’t play a minute, while Zoran Tošic moved clubs mid-tournament. Meanwhile, Patrice Evra and Rooney will want to forget the tournament quickly.
Sir Alex won’t mind though, with his World Cup stars given at least 28 days break, only a handful will miss the start of the season, injuries permitting.
In the third edition of World Cup Rant Cast, regulars Ed & Paul review the best of the quarter and semi-finals. We hand out our prestigious World Cup Rant Cast awards including best players and goals, when we can remember who scored them that is. Finally, Rant Cast looks forward to the Third/Fourth place play-off and Spain versus Holland in the World Cup final.
Stream this episode of the podcast using the player below or click here to download the podcast (right click & save as).
We welcome your input – send all feedback to email@example.com or comment below.
Follow Rant Cast on Twitter @UtdRantCast
Soon as the yelling stopped, a glass tray flew across the room, bouncing off JT’s forehead and hitting me smack bang in the middle of my face. As I regained consciousness, all I could hear was the Gaffer screaming down at me:
“Carrick, watta da hell are you doing here? Mamma Mia! Next time I throw something at Roberto Green, don’t you dare get in its way. CAPICE?”
“Yes boss, sorry boss, won’t happen again boss.”
“Now shaddappa your face! And the rest of you, you will be punished severely for your weak performance today. Yes, I am pissed off and that means one thing – NO darts tonight, or ever again, until you learn how to be men on the football pitch.
“Shaun, you can still play on the Wii.”
I looked up and could see Gareth smirking, while Ash sneakily took a picture of himself, strangely. I also noticed Carra taking a picture of Ash too. Was I seeing things?
My vision was coming back to me and the blood had stopped gushing out of my forehead. I soon realised however that I was once again all alone in the changing room, with Wazza the last one to leave I shouted:
“Wayne please wait for me,” but he was too busy speaking Scouse to Stevie G to notice.
I got changed quickly and went outside, but the bus had left. They probably thought I was onboard. I am sure it was nothing more than an honest mistake.
A few journos I knew from back home drove up to me as I waited alone outside the empty stadium; I could see one of them was staring at my black eye and I knew he was going to grill me about it:
“Excuse me, do you know the quickest route to the downtown district?”
I was answering his questions when suddenly he yawned and drove away. He must have been very tired, as those guys have a very demanding job.
I managed to eventually get to the hotel, offering a truck driver my England kit and massage in return for a lift back. Unfortunately though, I got there late, just after the kitchen had closed. Apparently Frank had eaten all the supplies from the all night room service menu.
I got to my room, having feasted on some wood and leaves from the garden. So all in all, it was a day full of positives.
Ok so we drew with the US and I didn’t get a single minute of play. Greeney will probably never play for England again and I can’t see properly out of my left eye but apart from that, it’s good to finally be under way in the 2010 World Cup.
I will write again after our easy game against Algeria. Unitl then keep those white flags flying high all you England fans, ‘cos we sure will.
I have to go now, I can hear someone outside my door…
Carra, is that you again?
The English cricket team has imported South African-born Kevin Pietersen, Craig Kiesweter and Jonathan Trott, as well as Irishman Eoin Morgan. Meanwhile, Rugby Union has capped Kiwis Shontayne Hape, Lesley Vainokolo and Riki Flutey. Could the answer to English football’s problems lie in the globalised Premier League?
After all even tennis (Greg Rusedski), boxing (Lennox Lewis) and athletics (Zola Budd) have imported talent over the years, with football’s globalisation more distinct that any other sport. In the spirit of question, Rant looks at a squad of overseas-born players who qualify, or will shortly, to play for Fabio Capello’s side.
Under FIFA statutes, players qualify to switch nationalities and therefore play for England if they meet one of the following criteria and have not competed at full ‘A’ international for another country:
(a) He was born on the territory of the relevant Association (i.e England);
(b) His biological mother or biological father was born on the territory of the relevant Association;
(c) His grandmother or grandfather was born on the territory of the relevant Association;
(d) He has lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 on the territory of the relevant Association.
Everton. Midfield. Born in Spain. Qualified under residency – the silky midfielder is already eligible for a British passport, meets FIFA’s residency criteria and has not yet played for Spain. With England’s dearth of creativity from the middle of the park, Arteta would add a new dimension to Capello’s squad.
Everton. Defence. Born in France. Qualified under residency – the 32-year-old defender may be in the twighlight of a solid career but few who have watched the left-footed Bagnolet-born player believed he would be worse in the England side than Matthew Upson. Qualifies under residency having not appeared for France’s senior side.
Sunderland. Midfield. Born in Belgium. Qualified under residency – the Belgian-born Frenchman has not represented his homeland at any level. Now 31, the technically gifted Malbranque would hardly represent a long-term strategy but did feature in the full France squad in 2004 without making the team.
Wigan Athletic. Midfield. Born in France. Qualified under residency – the former Newcastle United winger does, despite reports to the contrary, still qualify for England under residency if he takes up a British passport. The French-born midfielder also qualifies for Congo under parentage rules but has only represented France at Under-21 level to date. Has expressed a wish to represent England.
Arsenal. Goalkeeper. Born in Spain. Qualified under residency – the Arsenal goalkeeper’s previous declaration that he would like to play for England was met with significant criticism. But England’s dearth of high-quality experienced ‘keepers means the door is still open for the former Celta Vigo player who is eligible for a British passport.
West Ham United. Forward. Born in Jamaica. Qualified under parentage – Hines has already played twice for Stuart Pearce’s England Under-21 side but was also called into the Jamaica squad in 2009. The West Ham forward is yet to formally declare for a nation and until the 21-year-old plays a full ‘A’ international the choice is still his.
Tottenham Hotspur. Goalkeeper. Born in Italy. Qualified under residency – the Italian is no longer first choice, having moved from Chelsea to Spurs but failed to dislodge Brazilian Heurelho Gomes. But should Gomes suffer another dip in form, could Cudicini also force his way into the England set-up despite one cap for Italy at Under-21 level?
Middlesbrough. Born Argentina. Midfield. Qualified under residency – the left-sided midfielder is one of only two Argentinian players on the planet not called into Diego Maradona’s World Cup qualifying squad. The other is Maradona himself. The former Sunderland player has been resident in England for a decade.
Denílson Pereira Neves (Denílson)
Arsenal. Midfield. Born in Brazil. Qualifies on 16 February 2013 under residency – moving to England aged just 18, Denílson was called up to the full Brazil squad by Dunga nearly four years ago but did not play after pulling out. The São Paulo-born defensive midfielder will qualify for a British passport under the naturalisation process in around a year’s time, and then under the FIFA statute for the England team on his 23rd birthday.
Fabio and Rafael da Silva
Manchester United. Born Brazil. Defenders. Qualify on 9 July 2013 under residency – the Brazilian Nevilles could take a step closer to their United heroes and represent England in just three years time. Portugal coach Carlos Quieroz previously sounded-out the brothers over a role in the Iberian’s national side – a move that was politely turned down. Each has represented Brazil at Under-17 level.
US Tennis. Unlikley to qualify – Could Venus follow her sister into the full England side? After all Serena overcame the disappointment of being dropped by Capello for the Slovenia World Cup game by donning a frock and winning Wimbledon!
With the World Cup into its final week, the semi-finalists settled and 28 teams on their way home Rant looks at how Manchester United’s players fared at the tournament. Amid the inevitable festival of football, refereeing controversies and English failure – one memory abides: cheap plastic horns blown with the side of the mouth!
Chicharito began the tournament as a little known and completely inexperienced back-up striker in Mexico’s flexible attacking front-three. The former Chivas Guadalajara forward ended his stint in South Africa as first choice with his reputation hugely enhanced. Two superbly taken goals against France in Group A and then Argentina in the last 16 offer United supporters a glimpse of the striker’s touch, pace and natural finishing ability. May still head out on loan for the new season but clearly has a bright future with nine goals in 17 international games to date.
United’s Rolls-Royce defensive midfielder spent the past year offering up his best Lada impression, with the red tops incredulous at the former West Ham United player’s inclusion in Fabio Capello’s squad. Yet the 28-year-old left South Africa with his reputation enhanced, contributing precisely no minutes of playing time amid England’s monumental disaster of a tournament. Such is Carrick’s new standing that 100 per cent of Sunday Time’s columnists asked to choose a starting XI for England’s friendly against Hungary in August chose the Geordie midfielder. Who’d have thunk it?
The winger completed the past season in great form, promising to lead Portugal to a successful tournament alongside former United great Ronaldo. But a training ground collar bone injury – suffered while performing a bizarre overhead kick – forced the former Sporting player out of the squad and back home to Manchester. Nani claimed he’d be back in a week, the tabloids cried conspiracy. In the end neither was true and the Portuguese will return in time for pre-season.
United’s Serbian rock suffered the ignominy of a first round exit for the second World Cup in a row. This time Serbia at least gained some points, beating Germany thanks to a dubious Miroslav Klose red card, although Vidic gave away a penalty with an needless punch of the ball. Solid in defence and looking fit, Vidic offered no clues to his United future with the former Spartak Moscow defender’s agent known to be hawking the player around Europe this summer. Has hinted at retirement from international football.
The South Korean captain should remain satisfied with his country’s performance in Africa, after qualifying for the last 16. Not as inventive as the 2002 squad but full of endeavor, Park’s Korea beat both Greece and Nigeria before losing heavily to Argentia. The extra-time loss to Uruguay hurt, with Korean dominating the late stages of the match but Park’s contribution central to the Korean cause. At 29 Park has said he will continue international football until the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Newly appointed captain, Evra began the tournament seeking to replicate France’s run to the final in 2006. The United left-back ended the World Cup on the sidelines, with former great Lilian Thuram calling for a lifetime ban after Evra instigated a squad boycott of training. Evra later apologised for the incident, which included all 23 players, and will seek assurances on his international future from new manager Laurent Blanc. With the media and FFF seeking scapegoats it is conceivable Evra will never play for France again.
Appointed captain in the wake of John Terry’s affair with Wayne Bridge’s former girlfriend, Ferdinand broke down on the eve of the tournament as he has so frequently for United over the past 18 months. The 32-year-old defender will miss the start of United’s season following the knee injury caused by an Emile Heskey training ground challenge just days before England’s opening Group D match against USA. Will return to the fold but neither Capello nor Sir Alex Ferguson can rely on his fitness again.
A hugely disappointing tournament for United’s 34-goal striker, with no goals scored and the critics knives not only sharpened but plunged deep. Rooney claims fitness but no goals since a March injury against Bayern Munich tell a story of broken confidence and rusty performances. Rooney will take a long holiday before returning to the United camp in late pre-season. Rooney’s regret at performing so poorly is tempered only by the knowledge his neither his teammates nor coach offered him any support.
The CSKA Moscow winger began the tournament as a United player – on paper at least – and ended it with a disappointing group stage exit, one cameo substitute appearance and an £8 million transfer to Russia. Pre-tournament Radomir Antic had spoken of Tosic as Serbia’s secret weapon. The former Luton Town midfielder failed to back up the statement as Tosic largely disappointed.
In the second edition of World Cup Rant Cast, regulars Ed & Paul look at the best and worst of the tournament so far. Pundits beware as the team launches a scathing attack on the quality of TV coverage. On the pitch we discuss the best goals, players, major incidents and Rant’s assessment of United players at the tournament.
For hard core England-haters look away now – there is, inevitably, a lenghty discussion of England’s humiliating failure in South Africa; the root and branch review that the FA will never conduct.
Stream this episode of the podcast using the player below or click here to download the podcast (right click > save as).
We welcome your input – send all feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.
Follow Rant Cast on Twitter @UtdRantCast
Former Manchester United captain Roy Keane has lashed out at England manager Fabio Capello’s critics, delivering a player-by-player rating of the national side’s humiliating World Cup failure. Ipswich Town manager Keane derides the England squad as average, shorn of ‘World Class’ players bar Wayne Rooney.
“To keep criticising the manager is crazy. Capello is a brilliant manager,” said Keane said, who made 480 appearances for United.
“The players have to look at themselves. They get away with murder.
“You say that the players are good individuals in the Premier League, but tell me who they are?
“I think Wayne Rooney had a brilliant season. You look at the goalkeepers, I thought David James at Portsmouth, they didn’t have a good season and the other one, Green, at West Ham [United] they just about stayed up.
“Glen Johnson at Liverpool did okay, they had a poor season. John Terry had his issues, I don’t think he had a great season.
“Chelsea won the double but that was down to some world class attacking players. Upson, who played yesterday, West Ham didn’t have a great season.
“Ashley Cole’s just come back from injury to be fair to the boy. [Steven] Gerrard didn’t have a great season at Liverpool, James Milner had a good season.
“[Gareth] Barry I thought was very average for Manchester City this year. [Emile] Heskey started the season up-front for Aston Villa and he got three goals.
“You keep talking about these world class players, and they’re not. Wayne has the best chance but he still hasn’t done it on the world stage.”
As England crashed out of the World Cup in the most humiliating fashion perhaps the best consolation for those Reds following the national side is that Manchester’s finest will always be bigger. England’s ‘Golden Generation’ has evolved since Sven Goran Eriksson’s side lost to Brazil in 2002 but the squad’s nucleus remains.
It’s a squad that has now failed five tournaments in a row. The Fool’s Golden Generation.
England’s non-performance in South Africa is perhaps the worst of any in the last decade, bar the side’s failure to qualify for Euro 2008 under the hapless Steven McClaren. Poor against USA, abject in the draw against Algeria, England were little better than mediocre in the scrappy 1-0 win over the tournament’s smallest country Slovenia.
Then came today’s dénouement with Capello’s side taken to pieces by a vastly superior Germany. Out-passed, manoeuvred and thought, England resorted to bringing goal-shy forward Emile Heskey into the action at 4-1 down. If ever a substitution summed up England’s utter incompetence.
Supporters can point to Frank Lampard’s goal-that-never was, with Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda inexplicably missing the Chelsea midfielder’s shot that bounced off the crossbar and then a yard behind the line. In truth any complaints about the officials is a red herring, with John Terry and Matthew Upson performing their best Chuckle Brothers impression for the full 90.
For all Fabio Capello’s previously trophy-laden CV – in the 1990s at least – even the 64-year-old Italian failed to extract more from this group than McClaren or Eriksson before him. Indeed, Eriksson’s side made the quarter-finals of major tournaments in 2002, 2004 and 2006, which is about par for the course over England’s international history.
Indeed, something deeply troubling emerged from this tournament with the players’ almost universally down-tempo performances unveiling a deep unhappiness within the squad.
On taking the post more than two years ago Capello argued that the English played with fear. On today’s evidence they have no belief, , shape, confidence or talent either.
The perennial debate in England will now move on to why national team’s players supposedly under-perform for England when compared to their clubs. It’s a question, however, that particularly misses the point this time out. Of the starting XI against Germany only Wayne Rooney – who looked distinctly unfit in South Africa – the aforementioned Lampard and James Milner had outstanding seasons for their clubs.
Indeed, ‘keeper David James, right-back Glen Johnson and central defenders Terry and Upson each had campaigns to forget in domestic football. It showed today, with the BBC’s Alan Hansen given plenty of cause to discuss England’s ‘schoolboy’ defending post-match.
Perhaps the truth of England’s failure is closer to the quality, or lack thereof, demonstrated in the team’s performances during this tournament. It’s a poor team, with a distinctly average set of players that Capello has failed to gel into something greater than the sum of its parts. The stubborn addiction to a system that restricted too many of England’s limited pool of talent is just one of Capello’s major failings in South Africa.
Which brings us back to Sir Alex Ferguson’s United. The United manager has, with ever dwindling transfer funds, managed to squeeze every last ounce out of an ageing squad last season. The proud Scot has turned down England on three occasions but there is no doubt this England group, although limited in world terms, would have benefited from Ferguson’s continuing magic.
The Football Association, having successfully negotiated an end to Capello’s mid-contract break clause, may now live to regret that decision. It’ll cost the FA about £12 million to sack the Italian when the board holds its biannual inquest into English failure at a major tournament later this summer. His replacement certainly won’t be Ferguson this time either.
With the ineffective Rooney now off on a well-earned holiday, and Park Ji-Sung and Javier Hernandéz also knocked out in the round of 16, United now has no representative’s in South Africa. Michael Carrick, Rio Ferdinand and Nani didn’t play a minute in the tournament, while Patrice Evra, Nemenja Vidic and Zoran Tosic left South Africa in the group stages. It bodes well for the squad’s freshness next season.
As for England – we’ll return to the same debate about the side’s failure when it is inevitably knocked out of Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine in two years time.
If Roy Hodgson’s team makes it that far of course.