After the group stages, 9 of the orignal 12 United players are still in Germany, and it’s time to review what they’ve accomplished so far, and more importantly, what lies ahead for them.
Manchester United players have not exactly impressed – in fact, United interest in the 2006 World Cup has been more on who we could buy rather than what our players will be able to do.
It also seems highly unlikely that United strikers will get a chance to set the World Cup alight with goals (unless our luck changes tomorrow and Rooney and Nistelrooy both score hat-tricks) as we sit joint-7th on the top-scoring clubs list for World Cup 2006 and have little chance of topping that one. Euro 2008, maybe?
Let’s look at the players one by one.
Wayne Rooney: Boy Wonder still looks the most likely ‘top-scorer’ for United – and he should open his account against Ecuador on Sunday. Rooney’s return from injury has been quick and encouraging, and he should be hitting form and fitness in time for the quarter-finals.
England need a strong showing from Rooney to get anywhere near to winning the World Cup. Let’s hope he delivers.
Rio Ferdinand: Ferdinand’s seems to be injured for the Ecuador game on Sunday, but if all goes well (meaning that if Sol Campbell does not deputise for him tomorrow), England should have Rio back for the quarter-final on 1st July. Has been solid at the back, but will need to get better.
Gary Neville: Injury sees the United captain out of the World Cup till at least 1st July, but even then he might not be a sure starter because of a lack of match practice. He’s not had a great World Cup (to go along with the previous WC that he missed), so he would be itching to get a shot at playing more in his last finals.
Louis Saha: Can’t seem to get a game, despite his free-scoring form for United and France in the last few months. Trezeguet, Wiltord and now even Govou have been preferred to him, and while I don’t care much for France I would like to see Saha play against Spain on Tuesday (27th) – and hopefully score.
Mikael Silvestre: A man who vies with Darren Fletcher for the tag of the player most hated by United fans. If things go to plan he will be on the subs bench against Spain, and that’s a good thing for France.
Gabriel Heinze: The left-back returned from injury in style at the World Cup, and will be looking to build on his displays with an impressive performance against Mexico tonight.
Cristiano Ronaldo: Ronaldo might be heading back early when he takes on Nistelrooy and van der Sar on Sunday. Despite scoring and creating numerous chances Ronaldo still needs to convert his potential and bag of tricks into genuine class and attacking threat. As I’m rooting for Holland, he might have to wait till United’s pre-season to do so.
Edwin van der Sar: United’s star keeper has been in great form, and should be able to continue it against Portugal tomorrow night. Too bad England are slated to come up against Holland in the quarters, although Rooney vs van der Sar should be a fascinating contest.
Ruud van Nistelrooy: Nistelrooy hasn’t settled into van Basten’s 4-3-3 line-up, where a stronger, more creative forward like Kuyt might be better. He’s also lost some of his pace, which will count against him (although you can still expect him to start against Portugal). Needs to perform well in order to stay in the starting lineup, although knowing his luck, he might be dumped even if he scores a few goals.
More on United players after the World Cup ends.[tags]Manchester United, World Cup 2006[/tags]