Listen to the World Soccer Talk Podcast review of the Premier League weekend (gameweek 17) »

MON, 12PM ET
JUV5
NAP6
MON, 3PM ET
STO0
CHE1
FRI, 7:45AM ET
CHE
WHU
FRI, 10AM ET
MUFC
NUFC
FRI, 10AM ET
BUR
LIV
FRI, 10AM ET
WBA
MCFC

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.


This entry was posted in General, Leagues: EPL. Bookmark the permalink.

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 →