We pick the England team that could go far at next year’s World Cup, including a regular captain, while there’s also a warning for Man Utd over Jose Mourinho’s future – all in this week’s Monday Verdict….
ENGLAND MUST PLAY YOUNGSTERS TO STAND CHANCE OF WORLD CUP PROGRESS
We were discussing in TEAMtalk Towers the other day just how bleak it is supporting England these days and whether interest in the national side had ever been lower?
The chat came about as we reminisced about Euro 96 and how, but for the length of Paul Gascoigne’s stud, the Three Lions would have beaten Germany and then, most likely, have seen off the Czech Republic in the final.
Football is often about fine margins, but since those halcyon days (now over 21 years ago 😢) there has been very little to crow about watching the national side, or the senior national side to be more exact.
2017, however, has been something of a vintage year, given the success of our young sides in the Under-20s and Under-17s World Cup.
While that all brings with it great hope for the future, what now of our chances of enjoying success at Russia 2018?
Winning the tournament looks far more unrealistic than the current market leading 18/1 on offer, but with a strong start and a favourable draw, England should be aiming for the latter stages.
But how best do we achieve that – especially given how using the tried and trusted (see Euro 2016 ) often lets us down.
Well clearly the way forward is to play the youth, given their penchant for not fearing the worst, nor drowning under the nation’s weight of expectations.
The friendly against world champions Germany showed exactly what can be achieved, especially when you go with youth.
The tone was set by Jordan Pickford, a goalkeeper whose full debut already earmarked him as a safer, more enthusiastic pair of hands than Joe Hart.
And the same message was repeated throughout as an inexperienced side eked out a creditable draw. Of the others, it was Ruben Loftus-Cheek who probably did his chances of a trip to Russia next summer the most hope.
While England can’t go entirely with the kids at the tournament, a nice blend of youth and experience could yet see us reach the latter stages.
Assuming full fitness, this is the side I would pick… Operating in a 3-4-2-1 formation…
Pickford; Stones, Jones, Cahill; Walker, Dier, Winks, Rose; Alli, Rashford; Kane.
World beaters they may not be, but minus the fear that the older heads carry, a team that would surely have enough youthful exuberance to (at the least) restore some national pride and rekindle the ‘glory’ days of Euro 96.
A SOLUTION TO ENGLAND’S CAPTAINCY ISSUE
Gareth Southgate’s decision to refrain from naming a permanent England captain speaks more about the lack of leading candidates as opposed dawdling from the manager, as has been suggested.
However, the refusal to hand the armband on a permanent basis to Jordan Henderson speaks as much about his inability to command a regular place in the England side.
Following the emergence of Harry Winks, I actually think it’s time to bin the Liverpool man from England duties.
Clearly England need a long-term solution and the man who ticks the biggest box is Eric Dier, the man who has handed the honour on Friday at Wembley.
Now approaching his quarter century of games for England, Dier now has the experience that international football needs. He also has the right mentality, at 23, time on his side, and arguably most importantly, can be considered a regular pick for his country.
MANCHESTER UNITED MUST ACT NOW OR POTENTIALLY LOSE MOURINHO
Jose Mourinho has a history of not staying in jobs too long.
His first season at Old Trafford delivered hope; hope that the club can return to the pinnacle of the English game and hope that, in Mourinho, they’d finally found a manager who could stay in the role for a number of years.
However, with the United boss reaching the mid-point of his three-year deal, the club needs to act soon to tie their man down, especially with the PSG whispers growing louder with each passing week.
The lure of Paris would be an obvious one for Mourinho, given the wealth he’d have at his disposal. PSG have lavished vast sums on players to create one one of the finest squads in Europe. Given their showing so far in the Champions League, they’ll take some stopping.
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It’s that kind of glamour that has lured Mourinho already to some of the game’s biggest jobs – and the chance to conquer another of Europe’s major leagues will also come with an added appeal. League titles have been delivered in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain. Moving to France would give him an unique chance to add a fifth nation to his CV; thus enshrining his name among the football immortals.
But while Paris and Mourinho look destined to one day be, Manchester United must decide just how soon that will happen. The ball very much remains in their court – and staying on at the club must surely be his first choice for now.
Criticisms of his playing style and his poor record against the top six are unlikely to deter United either, especially given the way predecessors Louis van Gaal and David Moyes were received. It’s better surely to win and play unattractive football than to do that anyway and win bugger all….
However, if United are to keep their manager, it’s in the transfer market where they might need to show him their ambition. The world-record deal for Paul Pogba in his first summer at the club showed intent, but this summer’s frustrations – namely the failure to land Ivan Perisic and the long delays to get Nemanja Matic over the line – did them no favours.
They may not be able to compete with PSG on the financial front these days, but the intent to at least try and do so needs to be there.
Failure to do so could yet cost United their manager….