Manchester United players have not had the best of World Cups – Rivals Chelsea and Arsenal lead the club goal-scoring charts with 8 and 7 goals respectively while Manchester United players are at a paltry 3 – with two of those goalscorers already knocked out of the competition.
Gabriel Heinze – The man’s had a quiet World Cup, although his rash tackle on Fonseca in the second round was irrational while his defending in that match generally was not up to scratch. Heinze is an attacking left-back first and a good defender second, and it showed with his poor positioning at set pieces in United games as well as for Argentina. He may yet be United’s best chance of lifting the World Cup.
Gary Neville – Injured since the first match, Neville is fighting to be fit for the July 1 clash with Portugal – a match that will require all his skill and experience. His return will also allow Hargreaves to return to the holding midfielder role – a position that he is good at.
Rio Ferdinand – He’s been quietly consistent, but will need to turn it up a notch as England face their first stern test.
Wayne Rooney – There’s a lot of pressure on boy wonder to score and lead England to glory, but apart from match fitness Rooney has never been allowed the freedom to be an out-and-out striker. His modified role means that he will have to do the hard work and create opportunities for Lampard, Gerrard and Cole.
Cristiano Ronaldo – We feared that his World Cup would be over, but Ronaldo might still play a part in the quarter final against England. He is, along with Rooney (Saha wont get a game so he doesn’t count), United’s only goal-scoring threat, so it will be a pity to see either side go out. Then again, Ronaldo has been linked with Real Madrid, so that can’t be good. Will he score and boost his asking price?
Mikael Silvestre – On the bench. Should be on the bench at United as well once the new season starts and Heinze is back in his left-back role. Unlikely to play a further role in the World Cup.
Louis Saha – For Silverstre read Saha, and for Heinze read Ruud van Nistelrooy. Saha’s lack of playing time at the World Cup will be galling for a player who turned in a string of excellent performances towards the end of the season and in pre-tournament friendlies. I hope he plays, but Domenche is a cautious man, and his bets are already placed on Trezeguet and Govou.
That’s it for United players. I’d do something similar for Chelsea but there are so many of them that it’s not even funny.