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Could Man Utd's Success Be Attributable To Fewer International Commitments?

ryan giggs Could Man Utd's Success Be Attributable To Fewer International Commitments?

Could Manchester United’s success in the past be attributable to the fact that very few of his players, as a percentage, play international soccer? And even when his players are picked for duty, you know and I know that his footballers often pick up mystery injuries where they have to pull out at the last minute. But then are magically cured by the time Manchester United is ready to play its next game.

To demonstrate how few of his players play international soccer, let’s take a look at the team he fielded this past Saturday. Given, Wayne Rooney (England) was not chosen. But still, here’s the lineup as well as which country they play for:

  1. Edwin van der Sar (Netherlands, retired)
  2. Gary Neville (England, hasn’t played since 2007)
  3. Patrice Evra (France, suspended)
  4. Nemanja Vidic (Serbia)
  5. John O’Shea (Republic of Ireland)
  6. Jonny Evans (Northern Ireland)
  7. Ryan Giggs (Wales, retired)
  8. Nani (Portugal)
  9. Paul Scholes (England, retired)
  10. Darren Fletcher (Scotland)
  11. Dimitar Berbatov (Bulgaria, retired)

Out of the 11 starters on Saturday, only 45% play international soccer right now. In comparison, let’s take a look at Manchester United’s opponents this weekend, Liverpool, and the side that Roy Hodgson fielded against Birmingham City:

  1. Pepe Reina (Spain)
  2. Glen Johnson (England)
  3. Paul Konchesky (England, hasn’t played since 2005)
  4. Jamie Carragher (England)
  5. Martin Skrtel (Slovakia)
  6. Steven Gerrard (England, captain)
  7. Maxi Rodriguez (Argentina)
  8. Lucas Leiva (Brazil)
  9. Christian Poulsen (Denmark)
  10. Fernando Torres (Spain)
  11. Milan Jovanovic (Serbia)

Out of the 11 starters on Saturday, 90% play international soccer right now — exactly twice as many as Manchester United. And if Ashley Cole wasn’t so good as left back for England, the number could be 100%.

Depending on which side of the fence you sit on, Sir Alex Ferguson is either a genius or selfish in terms of fielding a team that isn’t affected by international duty as much as other teams. But you have to wonder how a team from Manchester, England doesn’t have one single player who turns out for England on a regular basis. Not that it’s a prerequisite for a Premier League club to field an English team, but it does make you wonder. It’s also perhaps a reflection of a transfer policy that focuses on buying the best-of-the-best rather than what nationality they are.

Even when you consider the other Manchester United players who didn’t start against Everton who are English, there aren’t many serious contenders for an England position. Hargreaves and Ferdinand are always injured. Owen is out of favor with Capello. So too are Wes Brown and Michael Carrick (also injured). And Chris Smalling is a future England prospect who currently plays for the u-21 side.

In the long run, Ferguson’s selection of teams that aren’t as impacted by international duty as others only benefits his team’s performance in the Premier League. Ferguson doesn’t have to worry as much about players being jet-lagged after returning from meaningless friendlies halfway across the world. Or players getting injured, as much as managers for other Premier League clubs have to be concerned with.

What do you think? Should Sir Alex Ferguson be applauded or criticized for having a team that is less impacted by international duty than other Premier League clubs? Share your feedback in the comments section below.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013. View all posts by Christopher Harris →
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10 Responses to Could Man Utd's Success Be Attributable To Fewer International Commitments?

  1. He must be applauded ,this shows how intelligent n smart the man is.

  2. Simon Burke says:

    Certainly doesnt hurt them. He is quick to say his players shouldn’t come out of retirement too when the idea pops up.

  3. VillaPark says:

    What is even more amazing is that of most of the players listed that play internationally, most don’t even play for sides that qualify for the World Cup or the European Cup (Evans, O’Shea, Fletcher, Berbatov before retirement, and so on).

    In addition, when Champions League and FA Cup games start, they have a bench with international players like Hernandez (Mexico) and Park (South Korea) that did play in the world Cup but have been getting some rest in the early part of the season (if you can call it that) while players who had the summer off from traveling to South Africa and playing in high stress games trained together.

    Ferguson just seems like he has these details figured out better than other teams/managers.

  4. Juve says:

    Or is it just that Manchester United is a team with a lot of old players.

  5. Go red! says:

    think it’ll be interesting to see how they perform with UCL starting tomorrow. look fw to the match on foxsoccer.tv – looks like they’re streaming every single gam live bar one!

  6. Dave C says:

    Interesting idea, but I think the article has several problems…

    For a start, trying to say Man Utd benefits from players being free from international duty is a bit disingenious when for a few reasons:
    (a) you’re judging them from the line-up of one particular match (which you admittedly stated was kind of an oddity, since Rooney didn’t play) . Evra’s suspension is essentially an freak event too – hardly part of some plan on Fergie’s part. Likewise, I think Berbatov only retired from internationals fairly recently.
    (b) the result of that one-off match was actually a draw, after giving away two goals in the last minute – hardly an example of success!
    (c) If you look at Man Utd success over a longer period, you’ll see there were times when nearly the whole starting XI were regular international starters (many of them for England).

    I think the better conclusion to be drawn is perhaps that Ferguson is benefitting from a handful of older players retiring from internationals, and thus prolonging their effective EPL careers – Giggs, Scholes, VDS etc.

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