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Can United’s Stars Shine For England?

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The first half of the Bulgaria match gave us hope, something to look forward too – a new flame that had been ignited in the England national team that made us think that international football for us was going to be exciting again.

Alas, we were wrong, when another dull England performance against Wales proved once again that it was same football, different day for the Three Lions. 

A lot of Manchester United fans were already suffering from disappointment before both games had even kicked off, as the team sheets were revealed with United  starlets Phil Jones and Tom Cleverley not even making the bench.

Both players have had solid starts to the season facing tough opponents and proving their Premier League quality against the likes of Tottenham and Arsenal. But are the two Red Devils likely to be included in the starting XI, or even the main squad, of Fabio Capello’s England team at the 2012 European Championships in Ukraine and Poland?

Cleverley has a lot of competition if he is wishing to cement a place in the England side. United’s newest domestic product has excelled so far for his team, although injuries have ruled out several central midfielders which will compete with him for a place in the MUFC team, including influentical playmaker Darren Fletcher.

If Cleverley can maintain his form throughout periods of the season, I cannot find a reason why Capello could keep him out of the England squad. Although I say this, I think it will be difficult for him to edge past Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry or Scott Parker for the time being, and therefore, unfortunately, I don’t believe he will get his chance in Poland/Ukraine.

Alternatively, Chris Smalling is currently keeping out Glen Johnson out of the England set-up, the Three Lions’ favoured right back. Smalling has been superb when filling in that position for United and continues to show his dominance at such a young age for the national senior side. If United continue to play the former Fulham man in that position, and he continues to keep out Brazilian twins Fabio and Rafael Da Silva, then a first-team England position may well be Smalling’s to call his own.

Phil Jones, one of Manchester United’s latest summer additions, has been covering the centre back spot in recent weeks in the absence of both Rio Ferdinand and captain Nemanja Vidic. Gary Cahill seems to have fit in to the England starting XI nicely since Rio’s injuries stopped him playing international football, but can Jones outshine the Bolton defender and step into 32-year old Ferdinand’s boots at club and country level?

He still has a long way to go to enter the hearts of the Stretford End faithful, but given the evidence so far in Jones’ recent performances, the answer could well be ‘yes’. Along with Cleverley, Jones is yet to be capped at senior level, but travelled with the squad to Bulgaria and to Wembley (vs Wales), which shows that Capello is definitely interested in making the towering centre back part of his plans for the future.

Another of the Red Devils’ new signings, Ashley Young, has already impressed Capello enough to hand him a regular spot in the starting line-up, either as a winger or second striker. The ex-Aston Villa star has shown, since his arrival at Old Trafford, that he is capable of challenging Nani, Park, and the soon-to-be returning Valencia for a place on either one of United’s wide areas.

Already looking like he has been there for years – Young continues to impress the fans with countless assists and impressive goals that will have Fabio Capello salivating at the thought of him producing such performances in the summer of 2012 in an England jersey.

Fellow red team-mate Wayne Rooney is a mainstay in the national side and is unlikely to replaced by most strikers, especially after his beginning of season form in which he has grabbed five Premier League goals, and two in Bulgaria for England. But United strike partner Danny Welbeck, who has only been capped once, faces a struggle to get into the England senior team.

With injury keeping him out of Bulgaria and Wales games, Welbeck will find it hard to replace Andy Carroll or even Jermain Defoe for the time being, especially as Carroll is being kept out of the squad by Ashley Young. Although it may be tough for the young talented striker, it may not be impossible – as Sir Alex Ferguson seems to have full confidence in him and started him in each game before his injury away at Arsenal.

When Welbeck returns from the grasp of United’s physios, and if he can fight off Chicharito, Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen for a place in the first eleven at Old Trafford, he will no doubt be breathing down Capello’s neck, forcing his way into the European Championships squad for next summer.

The amount of talent in Manchester United’s squad is incredible, and we continue to be the foundation of building a new England team, as we have been time and time again – but can our national side go on and succeed in 2012 where previous England teams have failed?

By Brett McCarten @BrettMacca