This past international break saw as many as thirteen Manchester United players turning out in the colors of their country. Among those who played during the international break were Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick, Robin van Persie, Nani, Darren Fletcher, Jonny Evans, Antonio Valencia, Javier Hernandez, Shinji Kagawa, Patrice Evra and Robbie Brady.
The English Contingent
Rooney, Carrick and Cleverley started both games. Welbeck started the game at Wembley at San Marino but was only used as a substitute in the game against Poland at Warsaw.
The game against San Marino saw England play attractive football for the first time in ages, and the United contingent was at the heart of everything that was good about the game. Both Rooney and Welbeck scored a brace in the 5-0 win.
The away game in Warsaw was a different proposition, though, as England scraped through with a barely-deserved 1-1 draw. It is difficult to say if the postponement of the game by a day and the extremely slow pitch affected the players, but the United contingent were as much a part of the sluggish England performance as anyone else.
Elsewhere in Europe
Robin van Persie scored in the Netherlands' 4-1 away victory against Romania. In the earlier game against Andorra, the striker was just a spectator, as coach Luis van Gaal opted for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. However, RvP was restored to the lineup for the more challenging game against Romania and repaid the coach's faith by scoring the last of the Oranje's goals.
One Red Devil who endured a frustrating time in the internationals, though, was Nani. Currently under pressure at United for his form, Nani played in a Portugal side that had two poor results. They were first beaten 1-0 in the away game in Russia. The Portuguese then followed it up with an even poorer result, as they drew 1-1 at home with Northern Ireland in a game that marked Cristiano Ronaldo's 100th cap for Portugal.
However, another Red Devil, Jonny Evans, was probably over the moon with the latter result. Evans played his part in Northern Ireland's rearguard action as they secured their second point of the qualifying campaign.
Meanwhile, Patrice Evra kept up the solid form he showed in the last United game against Newcastle, as France held world champions Spain to a 1-1 draw. The game itself had a fantastic finish as Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud scored a last minute goal to equalize for the Les Bleus.
Darren Fletcher's comeback to the Scottish fold wasn't the most successful, as Scotland lost both their qualifying games during the current break. They first lost 2-1 after taking the lead against a Gareth Bale-inspired Wales team. In Tuesday's game, they were beaten 2-0 by a Belgium team that is increasingly looking a strong bet to win the group.
Robbie Brady may not be a regular first-team player for Manchester United, but that didn't stop him from adding two more caps to his list of international appearances. He first came on as a substitute in the 1-6 thrashing Ireland received from Germany and supplied the assist for Ireland's consolation goal. He also started an international game for the first time in the 4-1 victory over the Faroe Islands and played the first half of the same game.
South and Central America
In the South American qualifying rounds, Antonio Valencia played his part in the 1-1 draw against Venezuela, which kept Ecuador in second place in the standings. Earlier, Valencia had missed Ecuador's 3-1 victory over Chile because of suspension.
In the CONCACAF region, Javier Hernandez had an eventful game for Mexico against Guyana. He missed a penalty, scored a goal, made an assist and caused an own goal in the 5-0 win. He even got booed by his own fans as he kept on accumulating misses in front of his goal! In the second game against El Salvador, Hernandez came on as a substitute to score Mexico's second goal in the 2-0 victory.
Shinji Kagawa was the star for Japan as he scored the only goal in their historic 1-0 friendly win over France. Even though the Japanese were outclassed by Brazil in the very next game, Kagawa impressed once again with his skills and movement.
Counting the Cost of the Internationals
The biggest positive from the international break was that there were no fresh injuries to any United player. Having said that, Hernandez and Valencia might be out of the next game against Stoke on Saturday because of the long journey back to Manchester.
In addition, fatigue might be an issue for the English players since they played the match against Poland a day late. It will be interesting to see how much these things affect Sir Alex Ferguson's team selection against Stoke.
However, one must say that the international break was a success for most United players and the management. The players all got to play different roles for their national teams, whereas the coaching staff are probably glad that everyone came through the fixtures unscathed.
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