After an unusually disastrous season for Manchester United, the United fans all over the world want a cure for the discomforting hangover the mediocre season has left all Red Devils with. Hopefully the World Cup will give all us dissatisfied United fans a new dose of hope and confidence that next season we will see a comeback of the destructive, remorseless force we have come to known United to be, with Old Trafford becoming a formidable fortress once again. The World Cup can illustrate all the potential positives in the upcoming new Van Gaal era if Manchester United’s players thrive and exhibit the class and form that we all know they are capable of.
Man United have 13 players at the World Cup, one of the most from one club in the world. Not all of the players in Brazil will play major roles because they aren’t central to their national teams’ plans i.e. De Gea will be a 3rd choice keeper for the incredibly strong Spanish team and Januzaj is only expected to play a role from the Belgian bench. So which Red Devils players will impress at the World Cup?
Shinji Kagawa- He has had an incredibly frustrating couple of seasons at Old Trafford, Bundesliga Player of the Year in 2011 and it seemingly has gone downhill since then for him at club level – largely because he hasn’t been given an opportunity to shine as he has been constantly played on the left-wing in a 4-4-2 formation both under Fergie and Moyes. He is a underutilised bench-warmer at United but for Japan he is absolutely pivotal for their success alongside Keisuke Honda. Used as a floating CAM who mainly operates on the left-side behind the striker, he has impressed whenever he plays for Japan. This is largely due to the fact he has fantastic chemistry with Honda. This year he has scored 2 goals in 3 games for Japan, and in the warm-up games he’s already made a fantastic start to the World Cup campaign. Manchester United’s Kagawa supplied great assist and scored a great goal with a bursting run into the box after a one-two combination, hence he is already showing signs of form in his national team. He is desperate to impress the new manager and Manchester United officials, demonstrating that he is creative midfielder that can still thrive at Old Trafford. The fact that there are no real favourites for the World Cup in their group; which includes the likes of Greece and Colombia (without Falcao), he has the chance to shine and show off his creative spark in Brazil.
Wayne Rooney – Going by the British newspapers and social media, you would think that England is only taking one player to Brazil and that is Wayne Rooney. At the beginning of every major international tournament it seems as if the pressure of a nation is rested on the shoulders of Rooney. Even after England get knocked out unceremoniously, he seems to be the first person to shoulder the blame of a usually average team. So Wayne Rooney has a lot of hype and expectation always to live up to. This year, he enters the tournament on the back of a relatively successful domestic campaign for him personally with 17 goals and 10 assists, so I think it will be another tournament for Rooney to show why he is England’s star man. I’m confident his vision, creativity and an eye for a pass will make him pivotal to the making of most of the goals England will score in Brazil with strikes and assists. He has scored 6 goals in 7 qualifying games, only one fewer than Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the same amount of games. He is 5th in the list of England’s all time top goal scorera and has the potential to score and assist goals for fun. It all depends on how England perform as a team against tough opposition in their group, but the bottom line is; as with Manchester United, if England are to have a successful World Cup then Wayne Rooney will be at the heart of it.
Robin Van Persie – Playing under his new Manchester United manager already, Van Persie is Holland’s captain and very much Van Gaal’s main man in the Dutch set-up. This is likely to be extended to his new set up in Manchester. Van Persie ended the qualification stages as the top scorer with 11 goals and has recently scored a goal against Ghana in a warm-up friendly. He is in top goal-scoring form for his national team after becoming Netherlands’ all-time top goalscorer. I feel his mind frame is in the right place now after being disgruntled under Moyes’ reign of Manchester United. He will be like a ‘kid in a candy shop’ again, as he so poignantly described his first season at United with Van Gaal as his new club manager. He sees Van Gaal as a ‘father-figure’ who understands him as a player and his philosophies better than any other manager. Van Persie in a happy mood and top goal-scoring form is bad news for teams at the World Cup, if he can keep injury free of course. Despite being in a very competitive group with the likes of Spain and Chile, I think Van Persie will score a bucket-load of goals in Brazil with Sneijder and Robben providing him with the ammunition. If Holland progress deep into the tournament, he has the potential to even be the top goalscorer in my eyes, even though some would snigger at that suggestion.
Nani – After a season masked with injury, Nani only played 13 times for United last season and scored only 1 goal. Even if he was fully fit I doubt he would have been used much more frequently though because Moyes was frustrated with his wastefulness on the wing. Even at Old Trafford, he wasn’t favoured as he was ironically cheered off the pitch when he got subbed and was jeered with every mistake, something very rare with the loyal Manchester United faithful. He signed a new contract that would keep him at the club until 2018 but many newspapers have linked him with a move away, hence I believe the World Cup is the last chance he can impress the new manager. For Portugal he is an integral part of the team; a constant in the line-up alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, he has notched up several assists and a goal in the World Cup qualifying, so Brazil is his time to continue this form. There isn’t a better opportunity for Nani to perform well at international level due to the fact that he is playing alongside the in-form best player in world football in Ronaldo. This is only on top of the motivation to prove all the doubters wrong and that he does deserve a place in the Manchester United side.
The likes of Nani, Kagawa and Fellaini all have to perform well in Brazil to cement a place in the Manchester United squad in the 2014/2015 season and survive the axe amidst the Van Gaal revolution. Whilst others like Rooney and Van Persie are competing for the lone striker spot in Man United’s team for next season, as well as competing for the captain’s armband and to live up to all the hype the media and fans have pressured them with. These players could definitely be the stand-out performers for United fans.
By Hesham Bilal-Hafiz (@hesham786)
(As featured on Thefootballfamily.com)