Retired stars Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Edwin van der Sar and Dimitar Berbatov enjoyed a lengthy break away from football but around a dozen Manchester United players engaged in international fixtures this week. Euro 2012 qualifiers, the Under-21 championships and international friendlies were taking place in the past week.
There were mixed results for Old Trafford’s heroes, with Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney each starting in England’s bore draw with Montenegro at Wembley on Tuesday night.
Ferdinand, restored as England captain following a long-term knee injury, completed the full 90 minutes, while Rooney failed to find the net as England served up yet another mediocre display in London. The pair might wonder why they bother turning out for Fabio Capello’s side as boos rang out at Wembley.
Better news for England fans came in the Under-21s, where Chris Smalling stared as Stuart Pearce’s side beat Romania over two legs to qualify for the summer 2011 tournament, to be held in Denmark. The former Fulham defender scored as England pulled off a 2-1 aggregate win.
Over in Paris, France continued a post-World Cup rebuilding programme without Patrice Evra, who is still serving a five-match suspension for his part in the mutiny this summer. The United left back missed Les Bleus’ victories over Romania and Luxembourg to keep France in touch with Belarus in Group D.
Meanwhile, John O’Shea and Darron Gibson both featured in the Republic of Ireland’s fixtures with Russia and Slovakia. O’Shea started both matches at right-back, while Gibson made a second half appearance in the 3-2 home loss to Russia and then came on for Paul Green in the first half during Ireland’s 1-1 draw in Žilina. Giovanni Trapattoni’s men now lie third in Group B, two points behind Russia.
In Group C Nemanja Vidic started Serbia’s 3-1 loss to Estonia in Beograd last Friday, which put the Orlovi at risk of failing to qualify from Group C. Worse was to come with Serbia’s fixture against Italy in Genoa abandoned after rioting visiting fans forced the referee to order an end to proceedings. Vidic will be thankful he missed the match through suspension, with UEFA likely to award a 3-0 win to Italy.
Italy’s Under-21s crashed out though, with Federico Macheda an unused substitute as the Azzurri went down 3-0 after extra-time in the second-leg to Belarus. The Italians led 2-0 from the first leg last week.
Also in Group C Jonny and Corry Evans featured in Northern Ireland’s fixtures with Italy and the Faroe Islands. The joy of a Friday night scoreless draw with the Azzurri in Belfast wiped out by a lifeless draw away to the Islanders today. Evans started both matches at left-back, with brother Corry came on as a second half substitute in Svangaskarð.
In Group H, Nani excelled as Portugal beat Denmark 3-1 in Porto. The United winger scored twice and laid on a third for former Red Cristiano Ronaldo. It didn’t keep the former Sporting player in the Selecção though, with Nani starting the victory over Iceland in Reykjavík on the bench. Paulo Bento’s side remains behind Norway and Denmark at the top of the qualification table.
Finally in the Euro 2012 qualifiers Darren Fletcher captained Scotland as Craig Levein’s now infamous 4-6-0 formation lost 1-0 to the Czech Republic in Prague on Friday night and again against Spain back at Hampden on Tuesday. However, the Scots can be proud in narrowly losing 3-2 to the world champions. Former United defender Gerard Piqué scored an own goal to draw Scotland level at 2-2 but Fletcher’s side failed to hold out for the draw in Glasgow.
Outside of European qualifiers but still on the continent neither Anderson nor Rafael da Silva were selected for Brazil, who beat Ukraine 2-0 at Derby Country’s Pride Park on Monday night. Just 13,088 turned up to see the Seleção win with goals from Daniel Alves and Alexandre Pato.
Meanwhile in Asia, Park Ji-Sung missed South Korea’s scoreless draw with Japan today. The United winger pulled out of the match complaining of knee pain; the injury which kept the Korean captain on the sidelines at times last season.
The final fixture of the international calendar involving United’s players will see Javier Hernández feature for Mexico against Venezuela in Ciudad Juarez late tonight. The 22-year-old striker has scored 10 in 19 caps to date.