United at the World Cup
With the 2014 World Cup due to kick off this week, Manchester United have a number of players hoping to impress on football’s biggest stage over the coming month. With no fewer than 14 squad members in Brazil, a figure only surpassed by Bayern Munich, there is likely to be no shortage of players for United fans to get behind.
Javier HERNANDEZ (26) Mexico #10
After making just six starts during a frustrating season under David Moyes, Javier Hernandez will be hoping to brush off the cobwebs and rediscover the form that saw him burst onto the scene 4 years ago in South Africa. Since then, Chicarito has scored 59 goals in 152 appearances for Manchester United but it seems more than likely he will be allowed to leave Old Trafford before the start of the season.
Robin VAN PERSIE (30) Netherlands #9
Coming back from injury, van Persie has been in fine form leading up to the tournament and will be hoping to lead Holland out of a difficult group along side Spain, Chile and Australia. After scoring just 1 goal in South Africa en route to the final, the Dutch captain will be hoping to better his tally this time around under the tutelage of incoming United manager, Louis van Gaal.
Wayne ROONEY (28) England #10
So long hailed as England’s hero, saviour and messiah, Wayne Rooney has repeatedly failed to live up to expectations in major tournaments. Due to injuries, red cards and poor form, Rooney has never reproduced the form he showed during Euro 2004, after spectacularly bursting onto the scene, and with his body already in physical decline, this could well be his last World Cup.
Danny WELBECK (23) England #11
Despite being one of Roy Hodgson’s most trusted deputies, many armchair pundits have already been scapegoating Danny Welbeck during England’s warm up matches. However, due to the extreme heat and humidity in Manaus, Welbeck’s athleticism, skill and diligence is likely to be needed if England are to stop Andreas Pirlo and co from running circles around them in Group D.
Shinji KAGAWA (25) Japan #10
With the sight of Kagawa playing on the left-wing almost bringing Jurgen Klopp to tears this season (apparently), it will be interesting to hear how the German reacts when he sees him playing to the left of Honda in Brazil. Nonetheless, with 2 goals in consecutive warm up matches, Kagawa will be hoping to make an impact from out wide and will be a decent World Cup free bet to score against one of Columbia, Greece or Ivory Coast.
Juan MATA (26) Spain #13
Having been sidelined by Jose Mourinho, Juan Mata helped push through a move to Old Trafford in order to secure his place in Spain’s World Cup squad and, after scoring 6 goals in 14 appearances, managed to knock Manchester City’ s Jesus Navas out of the final 23. Although likely to start matches on the bench, Mata is a trusted member of Vincent del Bosque’s squad and, if needed, will be more than ready to come on and give the Spanish midfield an extra dimension.
NANI (27) Portugal #17
Despite signing a new five-year contract in September, Nani was the forgotten man of Old Trafford last season. Nonetheless, he is a key member of Portugal’s squad who certainly has the skill and speed to worry USA, Ghana and, to a lesser extent, Germany (blame a certain Phillipp Lahm). With van Gaal apparently on the lookout for a speedy goal scoring winger, the World Cup would be an ideal place for him to find the form that made him so devastating during the 2010-2011 season.
Marouane FELLAINI (26) Belgium #8
The victim of Edward Woodward’s incompetence, Fellaini has been labelled as all that was wrong with Manchester United under David Moyes. He will be hoping to show he is better than this season’s form suggests by anchoring Belgium to victory.
Antonio VALENCIA (28) Ecuador #16
With Ecuador’s expectations resting heavily on his broad shoulders, Valencia seems intent on guiding his country to victory and, as shown in England’s recent friendly, will stop anyone that tries to get in his way.
Patrice EVRA (33) France #3
As the most enigmatic player left in France’s squad, after the post 2010 clear out, Evra has managed to hold off stiff competition from City’s cliche to hold down a starting place and will be hoping he can guide the likes of Varane and Pogba through their first major tournament.
Chris SMALLING (24) England #12
Often blamed for being too weak, clumsy or ordinary to play for both United and England, Smalling is seemingly Roy Hodgson’s third choice centre back in Brazil and will be hoping to make a positive impact if he is needed to replace one of Jagielka or Cahill.
Phil JONES (22) England #16
Drafted in as a utility player capable of playing in three separate positions, Jones may well be needed at some point in the tournament to do a job either at centre back, right back or defensive midfield. Either way, the scorching heat is unlikely to stop him from making kamikaze tackles left, right and centre.
David DE GEA (23) Goalkeeper #12
Seen by many as the heir to Casillas’ crown, De Gea is getting closer and closer to Spain #1 Jersey. If he is called upon, he has shown this season that he is more than ready.
Adnan JANUZAJ (19) Belgium #20
Having belatedly made his debut for Belgium at the second time of asking, Januzaj is a game changer for a Belgium team already oozing with attacking talent. Given his skill and unpredictability, he will be hoping to get some minutes from the bench if his team need to find a goal with the clock ticking down.
Who do you expect to have the biggest impact at the World Cup?
Manchester United, a Helicopter and the Best Player in the World.
As part of this week’s Transfer Special podcast, some friends of the site were asked to share their memories of great transfer rumours from the past. The brilliant Tricia replied with her memories of when United were a helicopter away from signing the best player in the world.
Your question about memorable transfers sagas and rumours over the years got me thinking about July 2003 when we waited on tenterhooks for news that we had landed Ronaldinho from PSG. We were flush with cash from the Beckham transfer and our offer placed side by side with the lower offer from a cash poor and faltering Barcelona, gave Reds a fantastic buzz of optimism that the deal would be made. I recall being absolutely elated about bringing a player the class of the Brazilian to Manchester United. I was sure with Ronaldinho in the side to partner Ruud, another European Cup was only a season away, two at the most (far too long to wait, anyway, in my opinion, since the last CL triumph of 99, for a club the stature of United. I was still smarting pretty bad from the 2001-02 and 2002-03 CL campaigns, and the puzzling disappointment that was Veron.)
Even Ferguson in his press conferences before the 2003 summer tour was bubbling with excitement at the prospect of the signing, and it seemed a sure thing. Almost as an afterthought, he threw in the name of Kleberson, whom, if I recall at the time, was a Leeds target. United took off for a summer tour in America, positive that they had their man only to land on this side of the pond to the news that he had accepted Barcelona’s offer. Devastation. Anger! Confusion!
I remember one of the tabloids saying that the deal breaker had been that Ronaldinho wanted his own helicopter to travel from Manchester to London for his entertainment! LOL, well, we were reaching for excuses for why it had gone wrong, I guess. So bloody disappointed. So, it was not to be. Today, I looked at Red Cafe threads from that week, and read comments like, we should have gone for Defoe or Joe Cole or Damien Duff with the Beckham money.
Well hindsight is a fine thing, obviously, but what I remember from that summer is that we dared to dream that one of the very very best players on the planet wanted to play for US. I think back to that August when Ferguson unveiled Kleberson alongside a pimply 18 year old Cristiano Ronaldo, to join new signees Eric Djemba-Djemba, David Bellion and Tim Howard. There was our Beckham windfall. My God, the old man did make some blunders but of course, when he got it right, as in Cristiano, he really got it right. But I still wonder about what would have been if Ronaldinho had deigned to wear the red shirt. We would have had him at his peak, ah jaysus, what a wonder it would have been.
Follow Tricia on twitter here.