Date: 22nd November 2007 at 5:15pm
Written by:

England, producing an astonishingly, mind-bogglingly, desperately dismal performance, failed to qualify for Euro 2008. Without a single United player on the pitch.

An end of an era, that’s what it is. With Second Choice Steve now out, something must be done with the game overall because yesterday’s performance was pathetic.

Croatia were so much more comfortable in possession that was unbelievable. Their players were confident on the ball and had the vision to do damage with it. A thought occurred to me.

Which English teams base their gameplan on possession and technical ability? Yes, Arsenal and Manchester United. Which of them actually have English players? Only United.

Yesterday Owen Hargreaves and Wes Brown sat on the bench while Rio was suspended and Rooney injured. Carrick didn’t even make the squad which is baffling. Now I would be hard pressed to find an argument for Brown’s inclusion – Campbell’s terrible performance maybe? But England can do without him.

Hargreaves is another matter. Anyone who saw Lampard and Gerrard giving away balls like some traders overcome by generosity attacks will agree that England would have needed someone who is comfortable in possession and can tackle. Maybe Kranjcar and Modric wouldn’t have been allowed space about the amount of the Milky Ways. If it must have been a 4-5-1, then a Barry-Lampard-Hargreaves central midfield should have been obvious.

As it was England’s performance was crying out for someone who could pass the ball – in other words, they could have used Michael Carrick. Yet he wasn’t deemed worthy of selection.

But I must say that I’m happy that United players were either unavailable or ignored. At least they were spared this humiliation and their confidence wasn’t dealt a heavy blow. Our English stars will at least have a calm summer of rest, won’t have to cope with extra pressure of morons who insist England must win the tournament playing fantasy football otherwise it’s no good.

And there’s another thing. Ask anyone who never witnessed Rooney playing for United but saw his every game in England shirt and they will tell you he’s an average player. Ask a United fan with only a little common sense and they will tell you he’s bloody brilliant. Why? Because he receives good passes when playing for United and he’s got players to pass to. As simple as that.

Same with Scholes. When playing for England he was never allowed to rule the midfield. He was asked to cover the entire pitch, chip in with tackles and cope with long balls hoofed up from the defense. His passing abilities were never allowed to flourish, simply because England’s attitude and gameplay did not favour the idea of a player who is capable of passing the ball. Nick Hornby was right, it just went out of fashion. God only knows why.

England managers always failed to bring out the best from United players – look at Rio hoofing the ball up to the England strikers and bringing the ball out of defence with composure when playing for United – and that is a testament to the poor skills of said managers.

So England need a manager who is aware of the fact that you must play at least one real holding midfield player, especially if the defence is suspect (sometimes, if your attack is deadly, you might get away with not using a holding player like United did during most of last season but England are not deadly in attack). Drop Lampard AND Gerrard, play Hargreaves and Barry or Carrick and please, try to get the best out of Rooney. Surely SCS could have asked for Fergie’s advice in this case?

And please, one more thing. Tell the coaches all around Britain that passing is a good thing, really. It should not be a crime if someone tries to keep the ball on the ground. It sort of works for a lot of teams.