United quartet make the difference
England’s latest vintage enjoyed a famous victory in the friendly match against Brazil at Wembley on Wednesday night. It was only the fourth time in football history that England have beaten football’s version of The Harlem Globetrotters in what was an unusually enjoyable Three Lions international.
While Spain may be world champions Brazil maintain the profile, with many, as top dogs and the statistics back up this concept. Spain are a bewitching team to watch but have only won one World Cup. Brazil on the other hand, have 5 title, stretching all the way back to 1958.
Anyway, stats aside, Brazil will always be number one for me. And England at last managed to do them for the first time in 23 years. Sure it was only a friendly but Brazil put a strong side out and played with the desire of serial winners from the off.
But Manchester United had four representatives on the park and this quartet made a big difference to the team.
England’s problem has always been really simple. They can’t pass the ball. Therefore they can’t keep the ball for any length of time. Therefore they can’t do any sustained damage. But, refreshingly, England actually managed decent spells of possession in this match.
Jack Wilshere was easily the best player on the night, driving at the opposition defence at every opportunity in an attempt disprove Neymar’s pre-match assertion that England only has one match winner. But Wayne Rooney wasn’t far behind Wilshere, showing that his form and fitness is right back to the desired level.
Tom Cleverley was another of the main protagonists. He rarely gave the ball away and never allowed the opposition comfort in possession. With the combined energy of Wilshere and Cleverley, Brazil had nowhere to hide.
The other players from Manchester United also added cohesion to a team which has so often amounted to less than the sum of its parts. Danny Welbeck gave the ball away needlessly a few times on the left side of a 4-1-2-3 but his overall play caused Brazil problems. He too harried the opposing defence into rushed clearances and used the ball intelligently on many occasions.
Manchester United’s Chris Smalling also came out of the game with credit. Despite a shaky spell in defence just after half time, Smalling looked mobile and composed at the back and, for our money, he will soon be a nailed on starter for England as the rightful heir to Rio Ferdinand’s long held thrown.
At Manchester United possession is 9/10 of the law and that ethos permeated the England team last night in what was one of the most impressive performances from the national side in years.
One truly hopes that England boss Roy Hodgson will retain the youngsters from now until Brazil 2014 to give them a chance to gel and develop into something that we all want for England but have so rarely enjoyed – a proper team.
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