Sir Alex Ferguson called international week “crazy” and he may have a point with five key Manchester United players off on international duty this week. While Ferguson negotiated a week off for captain Nemanja Vidic, whose Serbia team beat Israel 2-0 in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night, many of the Scot’s players were called into action.
Ferguson’s coup in ensuring Vidic did not play in the Serb’s meaningless friendly suggests Rio Ferdinand is not fit to take part on Saturday lunch time. The Scot will no doubt take further pleasure from Jonny Evans’ and Chris Smalling’s absence from any form of international football in the past week.
Striker Javier Hernández played in Mexico’s 2-0 win over Bosnia-Hercegovina in Atlanta, Georgia. While Bosnia’s Miralem Pjanic was credited with a 48th minute own goal some observers awarded the United forward with the bizarre strike for new coach Jose Manuel del la Torre’s outfit. Hernández missed the second-half penalty but was involved as Pjanic appeared to bundle the ball into his own net.
“I didn’t know if it was my goal or if it was an own goal,” said Hernández, who has scored 11 times in 21 internationals.
“I celebrated with my team-mates and laughed because of the circumstances that arose. Scoring is always beautiful but it’s better to win. It does you no good if you score three goals and you don’t win.”
Meanwhile, over in Copenhagen Wayne Rooney played a somewhat inconspicuous 45 minutes for Fabio Capello’s England as the visitors rant out 2-1 winners. While Michael Carrick was not considered for Capello’s squad, new United goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard sat on the bench as goals from Darren Bent and Ashley Young won England the tie.
In Paris France beat Brazil 1-0 thanks to a 54th minute Karim Benzema strike against the ten-man South Americans. Once again former United defender Laurent Blanc omitted Patrice Evra from the French squad but Anderson made the Brazil bench, although the 22-year-old did not feature in the match. Ferguson recently criticised Evra’s continuing omission, with Blanc coming under pressure from the FFF and French government to permanently exclude United’s 29-year-old left-back.
At Stade de Genève, Switzerland, Nani played for an hour as a Lionel Messi penalty sealed a 2-1 win for Argentina over Portugal. Former Red Cristiano Ronaldo also played as the Iberians suffered defeat. However, Carlos Tevez was omitted from Sergio Batista’s squad, with the new coach claiming the striker’s attitude was to blame for the absence.
In Dublin Darron Gibson scored a stunning 25-yard goal as the Republic beat Wales 3-0 in Gary Speed’s first game in charge of the Principality. The United midfielder, heavily criticised by some sections of the Old Trafford crowd this season, fired home from distance to score his first goal for his adopted country. Following the match manager Giovanni Trappatoni suggested Gibson leave United to seek more playing time – it’s not the first time the legendary Italian has made the call.
However, there was better news for Ferguson elsewhere, as several key squad members missed out on a game or were rested by their countries. Reserve goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszazck failed to make Poland’s squad for the 1-0 victory over Norway. Meanwhile, Park Ji-Sung’s recent international retirement means that the former South Korean captain missed his country’s draw with Turkey in Istanbul.
In a similar vein, Dimitar Berbatov did not play as Bulgaria drew 2-2 with Estonia in Tallinn on Wednesday night. The striker retired from international football last summer, prompting a resurgence in form for United. Meanwhile, Darren Fletcher and Jonny Evans both sat out Scotland’s 3-0 win in Belfast, no doubt at Ferguson’s suggestion.
Finally, at Under-21 level United’s Federico Macheda – currently on-loan at Sampdoria, scored a last-minute penalty to claim a 1-0 win for Italy over England’s age-group side. The striker claimed this week that he will return to England a better player next season.
“I’m looking forward very much to getting back to Manchester United but not the English weather,” said Macheda last night.
“You can get fish and chips there though and I like them. I was nearly 16 when I went to Manchester United and I do love it there. I’m almost English. My friends now say I speak better English than Italian. Of course I’m looking forward to going back. I’ve had a few injuries but I think things are getting better now.”
Scoring the winner over his adopted countrymen will only endear him to the Stretford End of course!