A look at United's international centurions

Posted by Mark Payne

REUTERSPeter Schmeichel, center, and David Beckham, right, are in the select group of United players with 100 or more international appearances.

It has been a busy year for England’s old stagers. On Tuesday against Ukraine in Kiev, Frank Lampard is set to reach 100 caps and follow in the footsteps of Ashley Cole and Steven Gerrard, who reached the milestone earlier in the year. A look back through the record books reveals this is something few achieve. Even Manchester United have produced surprisingly few alumni to this exclusive club.

England's most capped player is Peter Shilton, with 125 appearances. It should therefore come as little surprise the United player to represent his country most is also a goalkeeper. Edwin van der Sar played 130 times for Holland between 1995 and 2008, and he remains the most-capped player in Dutch history.

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That shift spanned some glorious years. Van der Sar was Guus Hiddink’s first-choice No. 1 for the 1998 World Cup in France, when Holland were narrowly eliminated on penalties in the semifinal. Unfortunately, he was unable to save any of the spot kicks as Ronaldo and an imperious Brazil marched on to the final.

Manchester United's next top international is also a goalkeeper. Peter Schmeichel put on the giant gloves 129 times for Denmark and managed to score in one of those games, as well. He shares the distinction of being his nation’s most capped player. In 1992 and '93, Schmeichel was voted the best goalkeeper in the world. In '92, Denmark won the European championship with him shouting from the back.

Manchester United's most capped outfield player also belongs to England. David Beckham spent the final 50 of his 115 caps dividing opinion but he was always committed. He captained the squad during the 2006 World Cup with England’s strongest group of players for 20 years. Unfortunately, nobody else turned up and his level of performance was only matched by Owen Hargreaves. Beckham led the nation 59 times, something only Bryan Robson, Billy Wright and Bobby Moore did more. He sits in distinguished company.

Incredibly, Bobby Charlton captained England only three times during his 106 appearances. But Bobby did score 49 times for England during a career in which he won everything. Without doubt one of the greatest players ever to grace the field, he was also imbued with a modesty almost unheard of in the modern game.

Many of United's other greats have also contributed significantly to their national teams. Bryan Robson's 90 caps would surely have been more had he not been injured so often, he was always immense when playing. Laurent Blanc played 97 times for France and is perhaps happy to have won every trophy available during that time. He might not be upset about missing the century mark.

When England line up against Ukraine this week they will likely face a player with more international caps than most. Anatoliy Oleksandrovych Tymoshchuk is in line for his 131st cap and captains the Ukrainians. The deep-lying midfielder will be looking to dent England's World Cup hopes and a defeat for England would live long in the memory.

If Frank Lampard wants to be remembered in the pantheon, a contribution on Tuesday would help. A large proportion of England's hopes for qualifying rest on this match. It is a big one for Lampard, and for Tymoshchuk, too. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top.

Follow Mark on Twitter at @markjpayne


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