The second International break has quickly dawned upon us and leaves us with two weeks of no Premier League action.
It’s frustrating for any football fan, as the league was just beginning to take shape. The narrative was an interesting one, it was as if both the Manchester clubs kept telling each other, ‘If you can do it, so can I!’. But, just as how we must accept anything that comes our way, we need to accept the fact that our weekends will not be as eventful as they used to be.
Nonetheless, let’s look at how the International players at Manchester United will spend this break from regular league football.
Beginning with England, four United players earned their call-up this time around – Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard. Phil Jones’ injury scare means he returns to Old Trafford, while the other three will be involved in two qualifying games against Slovenia and Lithuania, with victory in one being enough to take them to Russia. Marcus Rashford will be expected to start in at least one of those games. Smalling will be a regular in both of the games given Jones’ injury, while Lingard might have to settle for appearances off the bench. While Smalling and Lingard aren’t in the first-team contention, Jose will be pleased if they return from the break without harbouring any injury.
Heading into Europe, David de Gea will be in goal for Spain’s encounters against Albania and Israel. Italy’s Matteo Darmian, in the same group as David, will be facing Albania and Macedonia. The most interesting of ties will be when Lindelof’s Sweden come up against Blind’s Nederland in Group A. Sweden face Luxemburg and Nederland lock horns with Belarus, before going head to head in Amsterdam. France lead the standings in Group A, but with Pogba out injured and Martial not selected, there’s no real interest in their fixtures from United’s point of view.
Belgium have already qualified for the finals in Russia and so we can expect to see both Lukaku and Fellaini rested. However, it seems that Romelu is scheduled to have scans for a minor ankle injury and will likely sit out of the qualifiers.
Nemanja Matic’s Serbia need one more victory, against Austria or Georgia to qualify for Russia. Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s world cup dream ended a long time ago, but he will likely feature against Poland and Kazakhstan.
As for United’s South Americans, Sergio Romero and Argentina are truly up against it as they find themselves 5th in the CONMEBOL’s standings, which could mean a playoff against New Zealand. After which, they’ll be up against Peru and Antonio Valencia’s Ecuador. Antonio Valencia will captain Ecuador against Chile and are only 4 points away from qualification.
Ivory Coast’s Eric Bailly is United’s only representative in the African contingent and will come up against Mali. The Elephants look comfortable in their qualification campaign.