The World Cup 2018 is well underway now, with the group stages progressing, and there are four Man Utd players in the England squad for this year’s tournament. This is really the continuation of a long tradition, as the club has provided no less than 41 players for England World Cup squads since the tournament began – more than any other English club. Here we will look at some of the Utd stars that graced the England jersey at the World Cup with real distinction.
When the subject is Man Utd and England legends, the only realistic place to start is the great Sir Bobby Charlton. Sir Bobby played in four World Cups during his remarkable 17-year career at Old Trafford – 1958, 1962, 1966 and 1970 – but it was the one on home soil in 1966 for which he became an England legend as well. As England went on to claim the prize for the first – and sadly only, thus far – time in its history – Sir Bobby played a major role.
During the group stages he helped a slow-starting England secure a crucial win over Mexico by scoring with one of his trademark long-range rocket shots, before going on to score both of the goals in the 2-1 win over a strong Portugal team that boasted Eusebio in its ranks. In total he scored 49 goals in 106 England appearances – an astonishing record for a midfielder. Another who enjoyed the glory of a World Cup win was Charlton’s Utd teammate Nobby Stiles. Stiles was a tough tackling midfield mainstay for United for the whole of the 1960s and during that period he also enjoyed a five-year spell – from 1965-70 – in the England side, when he won 28 caps. While he did not enjoy the goal scoring exploits of Charlton, Nobby’s moment to shine came in the semi final against Portugal, where he man-marked the fearsome Eusebio out of the game. Although, to be fair, his dance around the pitch with trophy in one hand and false teeth in the other, was also pretty memorable!
The great Utd side of the 1990s supplied numerous players to the England squad, but the most celebrated was probably David Beckham. Having made his debut for Utd in 1992, he went on to win his first cap for England three years later and made the 1998 World Cup squad. This ended infamously for him when he was sent off in a defeat to Argentina and was blamed by many English fans, but Beckham went on to secure redemption four years later, by scoring the penalty for England to beat Argentina at the 2002 tournament. In total, Beckham scored 17 goals in 115 appearances for England, with another crucial one being the late free kick to book England’s place at the 2002 event.
The presence of four players in the 2018 squad ensures that Utd’s record of having at least one player in every England World Cup squad remains intact and one player who could well make an impact this time is youngster Marcus Rashford. He was a late substitute in the narrow opening game victory over Tunisia, but his speed and direct attacking made a big contribution to helping England grab the three points – something manager Gareth Southgate will surely have noted. The 20-year-old made his England debut in 2016 and currently has three goals in 20 appearances, but he is good bet to add to that tally in Russia, and he isn’t the only Utd star to have made an early impression.
Attacking midfielder Jesse Lingard gave a good account of himself against Tunisia, in what was his 13th game for his country, and he has become a vital part of the system that Southgate prefers to play. Harry Kane may have grabbed the headlines with his two goals, but Lingard’s performance during the opening half hour showed that he can run the midfield for his country already. If he can show more composure in front of goal to match his passing and movement, he could add to his solitary England goal during the tournament. England are 11/1 to win the World Cup – considered by many as a decent price, especially after their strong start, it would be great if these Utd players could follow in the footsteps on Stiles and Charlton and lift the trophy!
There is plenty of promise in this England side and the young Man Utd stars are a major part of that, suggesting they could yet achieve the legendary status of Charlton, Stiles and Beckham.