With no domestic football being played in the past week, we had to turn our attentions to a lot of meaningless friendlies to while the time away in the past seven days. Quite a few United players were involved, and most of us were hoping they would all come back to Manchester fit and ready for the last eight games of the Premier League season (and hopefully three games in the FA Cup).
It didn’t start well on that front as Bastian Schweinsteiger got injured in Germany’s first training session and will now miss the rest of the season and possibly EURO 2016. That’s a big pity as even though he’s not as good as he used to be, he gives the United midfield some much needed oomph when he’s playing.
‘Mike’ Smalling was involved in both England games, where he played the full match in the 3-2 win against Germany, after which England were handed the EURO 2016 trophy as they had just beaten the World Champions having been two goals down; he then played for seventy minutes against Holland on Tuesday evening, in which the trophy was snatched back as they lost 2-1 against a country that hadn’t even qualified for this summer’s competition. Daley Blind and Memphis Depay played the entire game for the Dutch. Blind had also played a full match at the weekend as Holland lost 3-2 at home to France, while Memphis came on at half-time and assisted both goals; Anthony Martial also came on for the second half of that game, and got an assist under his belt for France’s third goal; he then started in the 4-2 win against Russia but was replaced at half-time.
David de Gea, Juan Mata and Matteo Darmian all started in the Italy-Spain encounter that finished 1-1. Mata was the only one of the three that didn’t play the whole match as he was taken off at half-time; he then came on with twenty five minutes to go in Spain’s goalless draw in Romania (De Gea didn’t play in that one), while Darmian once again played the whole ninety minutes in Italy’s 4-1 trashing by Germany.
Paddy McNair featured in both of Northern Ireland’s games as he played for seventy four minutes in the 1-1 draw against Wales, then was replaced with just over ten minutes to go in their 1-0 win at home to Slovenia.
Meanwhile, Marouane Fellaini elbowed his way through eighty minutes of Belgium’s 2-1 defeat in Portugal.
United’s South American contingent had more important matters to look forward to as they were playing in World Cup 2018 qualifiers. The returning Antonio Valencia played full games in Ecuador’s 2-2 draw at home to Paraguay and then their first defeat in these qualifiers as they lost 3-1 in Colombia; Sergio Romero and Marcos Rojo also played the full matches in Argentina’s 2-1 win in Chile and 2-0 victory at home to Bolivia.
Some of the youngsters had parts to play too. Andreas Pereira came on in the second half of Brazil U/23s 1-0 defeat at home to Nigeria, then got the third goal in their 3-1 win against South Africa; Marcus Rashford got an assist in England’s U/21s 2-1 defeat against Canada, a game in which Ashley Fletcher came on for the last twenty minutes; Cameron Bortwhick-Jackson played over an hour for England’s U/18s in their 1-1 draw against Greece, while further down the age groups Angel Gomes scored in the U16s 3-1 defeat to Brazil.
In other news, the football world was in mourning as Johan Cruyff passed away. A legend both as a player and manager, he will always be remembered for the excellent football played by Barcelona and Ajax. On a personal note, it’s because of him that fourteen has been my favourite number since we were kids in the seventies. May he rest in peace.
The FA has charged Manchester City’s Martin Demichelis with misconduct in relation to betting. While it would have been funny if he had money riding on United beating City in the derby this month, the breaches seem to have been committed in the last week of January of this year.
Frenchman Remi Garde has parted ways with Premier League side Aston Villa as they start preparing for life in the Championship (they are twelve points from safety with just seven games to play). This looks similar to when United legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer went to Cardiff and the chances that he’d come out smelling of roses were slim to none as problems run much deeper than just the players and their performances.
On a similar note, Gary Neville has been sacked by Valencia as results were far from what was expected. Though you have to admire Neville for taking the job in the first place, he would have been better off saying no to his friend and business partner Peter Lim. He was in a no-win situation as he joined a club where Jorge Mendes (yes, him) has a big influence and quite a few of their players are on his books. Here’s hoping that he will have learned some valuable lessons as he dusts himself off and carries on with his coaching and possibly making a comeback as a well-respected football expert.
Meanwhile, Sunderland are looking to terminate Emmanuel Eboue’s contract as he’s been banned by FIFA for one year, or until he pays money owed to a former agent. Some might say that this might be good news for Allardyce’s side in their fight against relegation.
United’s next game is at home to Everton (Sunday 4pm UK time), where after a fortnight of not doing it, Louis van Gaal will get a chance to substitute both full-backs in his quest to at least finish in the top four in the league. COME ON UNITED!!!