Manchester United could have been forgiven for assuming that the current international break would have provided the club with something of a rest period.
But for a great number of United’s stars, there will be no time to relax. Thirteen players have been called up to represent their respective national sides.
That number would have arguably been even higher given that the likes of Nemanja Vidic and Ashley Young are currently sidelined with injury, and others such as Ryan Giggs have announced their retirement from international football.
Nonetheless, this list identifies each of Manchester United’s international representatives and the challenges that they will face over the coming week.
Note: As well as the aforementioned injury victims, players featuring at youth-level, such as David de Gea with the Spanish Under-21 side, will not be covered in this article as they are technically not representing their full international teams.
Despite an indifferent start to his domestic campaign, winger Nani has retained his place in the Portugal squad for the October internationals.
His country face a tough trip to Russia before hosting Northern Ireland next week.
With compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo possibly suffering from the after-effects of injuring his shoulder during last weekend’s El Clasico, there may be even more pressure on Nani to step up to the plate and deliver for his country.
He will presumably be hoping for a successful double-header for his country in order to put him in good stead to reproduce the kind of form he has displayed in the past, but is yet to show so far this term.
In that Northern Ireland squad to face Portugal will be Nani’s club teammate, Jonny Evans.
The Irish are the only country on this list to have just one game on their schedule this week, so on the positive side, they will have plenty of time to prepare for the visit to Portugal.
With a solitary point from their opening two games, Northern Ireland could soon find themselves left behind in UEFA Qualifying Group F, especially since their group rivals Russia, Portugal, Israel and Luxembourg will each have played one game more by the close of play next week.
Thus, the challenge of Portugal represents a game of considerable proportions for Evans and company to say the least.
Though Japan are not in competitive action this week, they have selected a strong-looking squad nonetheless, of which United playmaker Kagawa will be an integral part.
The Japanese first play France in a friendly before their clash with Brazil four days later.
Though billed as friendlies, they represent two great opportunities for Japan to establish themselves against two vastly more illustrious and decorated sides.
Furthermore, Brazil are hosting the 2014 World Cup. So aside from next year’s Confederations Cup, they will have no competitive action before hosting the biggest tournament in world football in two years time.
As a result, expect the Brazil tie to be somewhat more competitive that your usual friendly match.
As earlier mentioned, France will first face Japan in a friendly before an incredibly difficult World Cup qualification match against World and European champions Spain.
Evra has been selected and finds himself in a similar position to that of Nani and Evans in that he could be pitted against teammate Shinji Kagawa for the first time in his career.
But with both France and Spain currently enjoying 100 percent starts to their qualification campaigns, expect the focus of the French to lie primarily on next week’s top of the table clash.
Something’s got to give, and considering that the game will take place in Spain, one has to feel that the advantage is well and truly on their side for this one.
Hernandez successfully secured a place in the Mexico squad for World Cup qualifiers against Guyana and El Salvador, despite not being the first choice at Manchester United this season.
Six points out of six may not necessarily be of much importance to the Mexicans though as they currently lie seven points clear atop Group B of CONCACAF Qualifying and have already qualified for the fourth and final qualification round.
Nonetheless, as the most-capped and highest scoring forward to be named in the Mexico squad, Hernandez looks likely to once again be the man to lead the line for the 2012 Olympic gold medalists.
In the only instance from South America, Ecuador head coach Reinaldo Rueda has selected Antonio Valencia in his squad to face Chile and Venezuela in World Cup qualification matches.
However, his inclusion would suggest that his coach is confident that he will be ready to play in at least some part of the qualification games.
The Ecuadorians are currently sitting pretty in third place in the CONMEBOL qualification table and will be hoping to continue their good run, considering both opponents are languishing much lower than they are in the standings.
After Thomas Sorensen’s recent international retirement, Lindegaard will be hoping to assert himself as his nation’s new number one keeper after being named alongside Stephan Andersen and Kasper Schmeichel in the Denmark squad.
His country will face Bulgaria and Italy in the coming week, and though the Danes have a game in hand still to play, they currently sit second from the bottom of UEFA Qualifying Group B.
Euro 2012 runners-up Italy will presumably be the tougher of the two games, but now more than ever is the time for Lindegaard to step up and make his mark on the international scene.
After missing 11 months of action due to a chronic bowel complaint, Darren Fletcher will return to the Scotland side and captain his country for the all-UK affair against rivals Wales.
Fletcher hasn’t featured for the Scots since a friendly with Cyprus in November 2011, but after returning to action for United last month, he has declared himself fit enough to cope with the added rigours of international football.
With his country just two points from the top spot in a tightly contested UEFA Qualifying Group A, a positive result is very much a necessity if Scotland wish to reach their first World Cup finals since France 1998.
Wales, unfortunately, lie at the bottom of the group with two defeats out of two.
Manchester United’s top scorer this season will be seen leading the line for his country this week, first at home to Andorra and then against the side sitting one place above them at the top of UEFA Qualifying Group D, Romania.
The Dutch will be keen to erase the memory of their disastrous Euro 2012 campaign, which saw the Netherlands lose three successive competitive games for the first time in their long history.
Two wins and six goals from their opening two contests puts them on course to do exactly that, but further success in their next two games is a must if Louis van Gaal’s men truly wish to reassert themselves on the international stage.
The nation with the strongest Manchester United contingent is, logically, England.
Cleverley and Welbeck retain their places after successful showings during the opening games of the domestic season, while Michael Carrick returns to the squad after having ruled himself out of contention for his nation's Euro 2012 squad.
And as for Wayne Rooney; he will captain his country due to the suspension of Steven Gerrard.
Roy Hodgson’s side first face European minnows San Marino before traveling to Poland as they look to regain the top spot in UEFA Qualifying Group B.
With the year’s various controversies involving the likes of Fabio Capello, John Terry and Ashley Cole firmly in the past, Rooney and his men will be looking to prove themselves on the football pitch but will have to be careful to guard against complacency against their lower-ranked opponents.
Nevertheless, expect to see goals in Group B over the next week.