United trident blunt against Germany

Posted by Mark Payne

Alexander Hassenstein/Getty ImagesManchester United striker Wayne Rooney found it tough going against Germany on Tuesday night.

Three of Manchester United's players featured for England against Germany. Here's a breakdown on how they fared:

Chris Smalling

Smalling does not get many opportunities to play at centre-back for Manchester United and so his 90 minutes for England were supposed to be good game time to sharpen him up. That's in theory at least. In reality, he was outjumped by Arsenal's centre-half Per Mertesacker for Germany's winning goal and was not able to impress as he would have liked. Perhaps it was not to be the United man's night.

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England's sixth consecutive home defeat against Germany cannot be blamed on the ex-Fulham man, but rather Germany were simply the better team in every position. Considering Smalling rarely gets to play in his preferred spot, it is understandable -- never mind that when he gets back to United, he will probably be asked to play at right back anyway.

Tom Cleverley

Cleverley looks nervous when playing for England. Unlike Phil Jones and Smalling, he is more likely to play for United than England and the stage seems to intimidate him somewhat. Competing with Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard for a starting spot can do that to a man and he was slightly anonymous against Germany.
A quick burst into the box before immediately falling over two German defenders was his most promising contribution in the first half.

He was also architect of England's first real chance with a cross for Rooney that was headed just over the bar. Another notable effort was a dreadful and unnecessary tackle from which he was lucky to not be booked. In some ways it was nice to see; he is not someone who you would usually associate with tough guy moves.

Nonetheless, he was also nearby to watch Mertesacker rise above him and score the goal. A more industrious and spatially aware player would have tried to block the Arsenal man's run.

As usual, Cleverely displayed good vision and a mixed final product. He is not the solution to the problems that either United or England have, but he is probably the best bet that both of those teams at his position.

Wayne Rooney

Rooney, the great hope for England, is very often the only hope. But playing in friendlies at Wembley is a step down for him. He started dropping back after fifteen minutes, desperately seeking a football he could do something with and trying not to let his frustration show.

In the second half he treated the crowd to a couple of delicious touches, but Daniel Sturridge was not able to link with them fluidly. It is not clear how much of an opportunity Rooney will get to play with Danny Welbeck at club level either over the next nine months. Injuries could play their part.

The talisman was substituted after 69 minutes following a not hugely effective performance. It has still been ten years since he really impressed for England, for me. Meanwhile in Sweden, Cristiano Ronaldo was scoring the hat-trick that takes Portugal to the World Cup and his personal tally to 66 this year. Manchester United have scored 54 in the same period. Rooney's numbers are good, but not that good.

Mark Payne is the author of 'Fergie's Last Stand', available on Amazon kindle.

Follow him on www.twitter.com/markjpayne


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