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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.

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  1. Dave C

    September 13, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    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.

  2. Go red!

    September 13, 2010 at 12:42 pm

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

  3. Juve

    September 13, 2010 at 9:38 am

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

    • UpTheBlues

      September 13, 2010 at 10:09 am

      … Is the right answer.

    • Peter

      September 13, 2010 at 10:16 am

      What about chelsea then.

      • Simon Burke

        September 13, 2010 at 10:56 am

        Age aside they are all good enough to get into their national sides. A lot of them retired early.

  4. VillaPark

    September 13, 2010 at 9:14 am

    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.

  5. Simon Burke

    September 13, 2010 at 9:00 am

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

  6. premierleaguered

    September 13, 2010 at 8:44 am

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

    • Peter

      September 13, 2010 at 10:15 am

      It shows how arrogant and selfish he is.

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