On paper, a 3-1 victory against the African Cup of Nations winners, Egypt, a team sitting 17th in the FIFA world rankings, looks like a good result for England. The reality was an unconvincing performance that emphasized England's lack of depth and highlighted the absence of key individuals through injury and the poor form of some players.
With only 10 weeks until England boss
"The first-choice back four picks itself" --
Judging by his recent performances for Chelsea, and the first half against Egypt, Terry has been affected by off-pitch events (he was, however, more assured in the second half). There's also concern about who will play alongside him in South Africa.
If there aren't enough question marks for Capello across the back four, there is an even bigger one behind it.
In midfield, England missed the penetrative threat of the injured
The big question in attack is who to play alongside
Given Rooney's outstanding form, Capello needs to do all he can in his team and formation selection to maximize the influence of England's talisman.
Rooney scored the winning goal in Manchester United's 2-1 Carling Cup victory against Aston Villa last weekend. It was his sixth headed goal in a row, illustrating his growing reputation as a penalty-box power player.
Manchester United was formed by railway workers in 1878 as Newton Heath, taking its name from the tough East Manchester neighborhood in which its depot was located. Having provided investment to overcome a financial crisis in 1902, new directors of the club, keen for a fresh start, changed the club's name to Manchester United and its colors to red, black and white.
Fans have reverted to wearing the old 1878-1892 Newton Heath colors of green and gold in protest at the Glazers' ownership of the club. "Green and gold till the club is sold" is a chant that now rings out at matches. An idea that originated from the fanzine
At the heart of United's global fan base is a core of politicized, left-leaning supporters who object to the club's being used as a profit-making vehicle by owners with no previous association to their city or team. In a city with strong and proud labor movement traditions, the Glazers' approach sits uneasily with many, especially given that until rule changes in the 1980s, football club directors were prevented by the Football Association from significantly profiting from their position. Indeed, such was the uproar caused by
There is also a more widespread concern that the Glazers are mismanaging the club. When
The Glazers, though presumably rattled by this growing backlash, probably thought their position was secure until this week when a group of wealthy and powerful supporters interested in buying the club -- the Red Knights -- appealed to fans to not renew their season tickets in an attempt to starve the Glazers of funds.
Cleverly branded, yes, but are the Red Knights saviors in shining armor? They believe that they have more than $1 billion to purchase United, and they certainly have the expertise to run a football club. Led by
According to the
Manchester United chief executive
Chris, while such a playoff would be exciting and allow more clubs to strive for Champions League qualification later in the season, we're opposed to it (as are EPL bosses, who rejected the idea on Thursday). We think that the top four qualifying is the fairest system and that if seventh qualified instead of fourth, this would risk a weaker English representation in Europe. England currently holds the maximum four Champions League berths, the result of past successes. If success rate drops, so does the number of qualifying places. For instance, it was announced last week that Scotland will have one rather than two Champions League qualifying teams from the 2011-12 season.
Only the clubs playing in the Champions League receive its funding, so there is a case that a playoff system would lead to a greater variety of English qualifiers and therefore a more equitable EPL, but again this would probably be to the detriment of English competitiveness in Europe.