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Assessing United’s English Quartet’s Euro 2012 Campaign

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Euro 2012 is almost upon us and despite Manchester United only having four players selected by Roy Hodgson for the tournament; it represents a massive opportunity for them to prove themselves on the International stage.

It’s incredible to think that eight years ago Wayne Rooney propelled himself to the World of Football when he scored four goals at Euro 2004 whilst he was an Everton player.

Rooney played without fear. Experienced players were just seen as players in his eyes and he lit up the tournament with a smile on his face as well as some stunning strikes.

Rooney stole the show and was England’s talisman at the tournament to such an extent that Michael Owen his partner up front was firmly in his shadow, merely being a supporting act for the wonderkid. Of course it all ended in tears when Rooney hobbled of with an ankle injury just before the half-hour mark against Portugal in the quarter-finals with England after an epic game going out on penalties to the host nation.

Due to a silly sending-off against Montenegro in England’s final qualification game, Rooney picked up a two-match ban for the tournament and is available only from the side’s final Group game against Ukraine onwards. To say that’s a major blow would be an understatement but it gives Rooney a chance to come in and likely seal England’s place in the quarter-finals of the competition. That’s the hope anyway.

Whilst Rooney has tournament-experience with England, for Phil Jones, Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young this will be a first. The trio have been firmly part of England’s plans for the last year and were no-brainers to be selected.

Young whilst suffering an up-and-down season for United hasn’t put a foot wrong for England since becoming a first-team regular, recently scoring in four straight games leading into Saturday’s friendly with Belgium where he provided the assist for Welbeck’s winning goal.

Frank Ribery and Arjen Robben are renowned for being two of Europe’s best wingers due to the fact they are not only able to beat defenders and put balls into the box but because they are also able to cut inside and play in an attacking role as a support striker. Young has excelled in that role recently for England and due to his pace; intelligence and finishing ability is a good foil alongside a taller figure like Andy Carroll or Welbeck.

Speaking of Welbeck, he is in prime condition to start alongside Young in Dontesk on Monday week. Despite Carroll putting in arguably his best performance at International level against Norway last weekend, Welbeck made the most of 54 minutes yesterday. He looked the part up top winning and holding up the ball and finished well with his only chance of the game. That’s a sign of a great striker.

Just like in the Champions League and big Premiership games, chances don’t come along that often and the best teams have strikers who only need one chance to score and quite often can make the most out of half-chances. Welbeck showed great finesse in taking his chance and it was a sign of how well he played that England didn’t look the same when Hodgson substituted him.

The final piece of the United quartet going to the Euros is Jones who with England’s recent injury problems is likely to play in defence as well as midfield during the tournament. Whilst it’s fair to say he had a difficult end to the season, he has come a long way since his league debut for Blackburn Rovers back in February 2010 and is still a work in progress for the future.

Glen Johnson put in a shaky display against Belgium at right-back with misplaced passes and poor positioning aplenty. With the countries best right-back Micah Richards still out of favour, the Liverpool man has been lucky to hang onto his place. That’s why it’s important that Jones if given the chance makes the most of his opportunity and at the very least keeps pushing Johnson to improve his performance.

Overall though despite England not being one of the favourites for the competition, the tournament gives a chance for United’s quartet to show their quality. England should have enough to qualify from their group and even if they do lose to France they should still be in which a chance going into their final game against Ukraine.

That will give the chance for Rooney to be the hero and fire England through to the quarter-finals where they will face Vincent Del Bosque’s Spain. Going into the game as underdogs could work to England’s advantage and that will not mean the side playing ‘headless chicken style’ meaning that they will have to play on the break. That’s if they can get the ball of Spain which is a far from easy task to achieve.

By Adam Dennehey @ADennehey87