March International Break Round-Up – Manchester United – originally posted on Sportslens.com
With the March international break reaching its conclusion, players only have a short amount of time before they’re expected to be back in action with their club sides over the Easter weekend.
Ahead of Manchester United’s clash with Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday, we’re going to take a look at how the 15 internationals in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad fared during their respective national duties.
What started as four call-ups from Old Trafford to Gareth Southgate’s squad ended in four and a loanee as Marcus Rashford was forced to withdraw from international duty before a ball had been kicked, opting to focus on rehabilitation from an injury instead.
Goalkeeper Dean Henderson joined the Three Lions squad but failed to make an appearance across the three World Cup qualification victories against San Marino (5-0), Albania (2-0) and Poland (2-1).
Burnley’s Nick Pope was preferred over the United shot-stopper, which could be a sign of things to come in this summer’s European Championships.
Left-back Luke Shaw will also be disappointed with his playing time over the international break as Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell was preferred for two of the three games.
Shaw played the full match in Albania and grabbed an assist in the first-half but failed to even make it off the bench in either of the other two.
Defensive colleague Harry Maguire will be more pleased with his performances for Southgate’s side, given that he grabbed the match-winner five minutes from time against Poland at Wembley.
Centre-back Maguire has become an important figure in the national side and at club level and played against Albania, having been rested for the San Marino match.
Jesse Lingard – currently out on loan at West Ham from United – won Man of the Match against San Marino but played just the last 10 minutes in Albania and was used as an injury-time substitute against Poland.
England are top of their group with nine points from three games.
A final mention in this section must go to Mason Greenwood. He was called up to the national team’s Under-21 side for their Euro Championship group stage qualification battle but had to withdraw through injury before the camp started.
Greenwood didn’t miss out much, as Aidy Boothroyd’s Young Lions failed to qualify for the tournament finals in the summer.
United midfielder Scott McTominay made it 22 caps for his country as he played all three of Scotland’s World Cup qualification matches, not missing a single minute of action.
Two draws against Austria (2-2) and Israel (1-1) were followed up by an emphatic 4-0 victory over the Faroe Islands, and Steve Clarke’s side now sit second in the group with five points behind Denmark.
Winger Dan James impressed on national duty for Wales to follow-up a good spell at club level just before the international break.
The 23-year-old grabbed the winner in an important World Cup qualification clash against Czech Republic at the Cardiff City Stadium which ended 1-0, and he took home the Man of the Match award on the evening. He also played the full 90 minutes in their 3-1 loss to Belgium.
James didn’t have any involvement in the Welsh’s 1-0 friendly triumph over Mexico, contrary to youngster Dylan Levitt who is currently out on loan at Croatian side NK Istra 1961 from Old Trafford.
Levitt wasn’t involved in the World Cup qualifiers but played the first half of the Mexico friendly.
Having played two games, Wales have three points and are third in their respective group.
France’s international fixtures actually brought about the worst news of the international break for United as they saw forward Anthony Martial limp off injured against Kazakhstan.
Having been brought on in the closing stages of a 1-1 draw against Ukraine, the 25-year-old started against Kazakhstan and grabbed an assist to help his side to a 2-0 victory. He actually received the man of the match award despite being taken with a knee injury.
Manager Didier Deschamps confirmed that it wasn’t as serious as first expected, but Martial played no part in the last game, a 1-0 win against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Meanwhile, teammate Paul Pogba did play a part in all three of Les Blues three games. He was brought off the bench in the game against Ukraine, started against Kazakhstan before being subbed off and then played the full game against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
France took seven points from their three games and are top of the qualification group as things stand.
Having not played a game in March at club level, keeper David de Gea will be bitterly disappointed that he could not get any minutes under his belt for the Spanish national side over the last 10 days.
Athletic Bilbao’s Unai Simon was preferred in all three qualification matches by head coach Luis Enrique, including in the 3-1 victory against Kosovo which saw Simon make a horrific mistake.
Added to that victory a 1-1 draw against Greece and a 2-1 triumph over Georgia with an injury-time winner, Spain are top of their qualification group.
United star man Bruno Fernandes had a very mixed international experience. He played the second half in a 1-0 win against Azerbaijan and was substituted off the field in injury time in Portugal’s 1-1 draw with Serbia, much to the amusement of club teammate Nemanja Matić.
Although now retired from international football himself, Serbian Matić left a poster on Fernandes’ locker at the United training ground following the game displaying a picture of a Cristiano Ronaldo shot in added time which appeared to have crossed the line but wasn’t given by the officials.
It wouldn’t have taken long for Fernandes to see this in person. Following the encounter with Serbia, he left the Portuguese camp and returned to the United training ground, playing no part in the national side’s last match – a 3-1 win against Luxembourg.
Seven points from the three games sees Portugal top of the group, but they are level on points with Serbia.
Interestingly, Donny Van De Beek is the third and final player on this list to have netted a goal during the international break.
He scored in a 7-0 drubbing of Gibraltar having only been subbed on with 15 minutes to go in the game, and this came after another appearance off the bench in Holland’s 2-0 win against Latvia, that time just 10 minutes of match action came the way of VDB.
A forgotten man under Solskjaer at times this season, the 23-year-old was also forced to watch from the bench as the Dutch lost 4-2 to Turkey in the opening group stage game.
Unexpectedly, Holland are currently second in their group with six points behind table-toppers Turkey.
For defender Victor Lindelöf and Sweden, the international break was a lot more straight forward with three victories from three.
Georgia (1-0) and Kosovo (3-0) were the defeated opponents in the Swede’s two World Cup qualifiers, with Centre-back Lindelöf playing in both of these matches from start to finish.
However, the 26-year-old was not involved in their 1-0 friendly win against Estonia.
With six points from two World Cup qualifiers, Sweden now trail in their group to only David De Gea’s Spain.
The final two players on the United international list and the only two involved in the internationals who don’t hail from a European country are Eric Bailly and Amad Diallo.
The Ivorians played out the final two games of their African Cup of Nations qualification group with two victories, topping the table and qualifying for the tournament finals later on this year in the process.
Defender Bailly started the 3-0 win against Niger before being taken off in the second half while Diallo played the last five minutes of the encounter off the bench, replacing Arsenal’s Nicolas Pépé.
Neither of the two were involved in the final group stage game, a 3-1 triumph over Ethiopia to officially clinch the top spot.