A petition to omit Tom Cleverley from the 2014 England World Cup squad currently stands at almost 20,000 signatures. Whilst we think this is the work of 20,000 bullies against a man who wants to represent his country at the highest level, it does show that competition for places, particularly in the midfield, has never been higher.
Which is worrying for those Red Devils who have seriously underperformed under new manager David Moyes. So far it’s been a calamitous campaign, with only the thinly veiled hope of Champions League success offering them any hope of glory, and the likes of Cleverley, Michael Carrick, and Ashley Young face an upward battle if they are to feature at the World Cup in Brazil.
It’s a far cry from the beginning of the season when the Three Lions took on Scotland. The Champions were riding off the back of a comfortable Community Shield win and in line for a season full of promise.
Eight United stars were called up to the squad for that game. Fast forward to March’s friendly with Denmark that number stood at five, with only Rooney, Smalling, and Welbeck seeing any action.
Carrick and Cleverley may have the biggest battle ahead of the tournament which begins on June 12, whilst it will take a miracle for Ashley Young to get the nod.
Places in midfield have been hotting up tremendously in the last few weeks. Impressive performances from Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in their respected colours have almost secured their seats on the plane and Ross Barkley, Jordan Henderson, and even Fabian Delph, have certainly done themselves no harm.
Unlike Cleverley, who has been heavily criticized for his performances this season, Carrick is still showing elements of class. He’s been a regular in the England squad since Hodgson took charge and his intercepting, ability to pass the ball and tournament experience would provide a more than suitable replacement for captain Gerrard in that holding midfield role.
Behind the midfield lies a very thin back four. Places for full back are certainly congested but with only Chelsea’s Gary Cahill and Everton’s Phil Jagielka offering any kind of competition at centre half both Chris Smalling and Phil Jones will be gracing the golden sands of the Copacabana.
And they’ll be joined by Rooney and Welbeck. The 23-year-old from Longsight has shone in recent weeks for the Reds and his pace and energy almost guarantees him a chance to terrorise defences in the searing heat of South America.
There are less than 90 days until the first ball is kicked in the Corinthians Arena, Sao Paulo. The England squad will be discussed in every pub, office, and café up until then. Should Cleverley go? Should Carrick go? Is Young going to re-announce himself in the next few weeks in front of an Old Trafford crowd? We’ll just have to wait and see.