In recent games, Manchester United have hit a stumbling block after their electrifying start to the season. The free-flowing football has slowed to a sludge, the defence has had it’s shortcomings exposed in the wake of recent injuries and the now-routine complaints about the midfield, of which Michael Carrick receives the most, continue to be aired. After scraping past a resilient Norwich, which followed unconvincing draws against Basel and Stoke, it may have been felt among some supporters that the international break was well timed, given that the next games to be played involve rivals Liverpool and Manchester City.
England fans also found themselves with reason to celebrate, with Fabio Capello’s side coming away with a draw, despite going ahead against Montenegro and booking their place in the European Championships in 2012. However, the headlines were dominated by the actions of Wayne Rooney, seemingly lashing out and receiving a red card 17 minutes from the end. Most attributed this return in temper to the undoubtedly distressing news of his father and uncle’s arrest, and given the timing of both incidents it would be understandable to link them. Capello tried to reason that it was more out of frustration at his performance throughout the game, not playing to the high standards that he, and fans, expect of him, but again one may say that he was off form as he was pre-occupied mentally with the situation off the field. Regardless of whether people thought the sending off was harsh, the situation could have been avoided by walking away, and little changes the fact that he now finds himself suspended for the start of the championship next year. England were by no means playing well that evening, and the sending off did nothing to help that, and Capello will have been relieved that his side could get through and qualify on that occasion rather than waiting for the next.
Another concern may well be what it would mean for his club form. Some may say that the internationals were well timed with regards to the consequences at club level as such actions have been avoided in a Premier League game although we will not know how recent events will translate into performances in the long run until weeks have passed and the news stories have died down. Fans will certainly be hoping that what happened for England simply appears to be a blip that can be put to one side so that his own superb start to the season is not suddenly derailed by factors outside of his control.
What of the others featuring for England that evening? Phil Jones found himself at right back, and was impressive if a little suspect for the moment, perhaps down to inexperience as he found himself caught out a couple of times and could have conceded a penalty. Considering right back has been such a problem position in the past, someone with the pace and ability to run with the ball as Jones does is certainly an advantage, and does demonstrate his versatility but one feels a more central position will be a more permanent place in future. Fans have speculated about his potential in the centre of midfield perhaps in a defensive role to exploit his charging runs and good strength, but regardless if he continues to perform as he does, the future looks bright for United’s summer signing. Of course, when Chris Smalling returns from injury, he may well be considered more often for the right back spot having impressed their on a few occasions so far this season.
Ashley Young has made himself a permanent fixture within the side, showing consistency in his performances for the national side that echo his impressive club form since joining United during the summer. Finding himself on the scoresheet and a continued attacking threat has shown that there is greater maturity in his play and an ability to assert himself on the game more than before.
Of course with Danny Welbeck returning from injury and already impressing on his return to the United side, a chance to spearhead the English attack may well beckon for him and if he regularly finds the scoresheet at Old Trafford when he has the chance, then the possibility of a starting place with England will look ever stronger.