The 2014 World Cup is almost upon us, and while the sight of the likes of Spain, Brazil and Germany battling it out for the greatest prize in football will be quite enough intrigue for most, there will be a few fans keeping one eye on their own beloved club’s representatives in South America.
Manchester United, for one, have seen 14 players fly off to Brazil this summer, all gunning for that precious little gold trophy. While the Red Devils endured a horror Premier League campaign of last, the players are still among the best on the planet, and some could erase the bitter memory of last season with victory on the grandest stage of all.
Take a look at five Manchester United stars who could return to Old Trafford next season as World Champions, with some well placed to beat the World Cup odds this summer:
5. Adnan Januzaj, Belgium
The 19-year-old attacker burst onto the scene last season, stunning the English top flight with his tricky feet, silky skills, and penchant for the spectacular. He joins up with Marc Wilmot’s Belgian side who, with the likes of Eden Hazard and Vincent Kompany also in the ranks, are considered to be dark horses for the World Cup. If they can somehow get their hands on the trophy, both Januzaj and Marouane Fellaini would be World Champions.
4. Nani, Portugal
Although far from a regular for United or Portugal, Nani is part of Paulo Bento’s 23-man squad heading for Brazil, and like Belgium, are chock full of stunning attacking options, none more impressive than former United man Cristiano Ronaldo.
3. Wayne Rooney, England
Certainly England’s most important player as we approach kick off in South America, Rooney has come in for some bizarre, unwarranted criticism of late, and even before he has kicked a ball at the World Cup. Despite what some are saying, Rooney must start, must play every minute of England’s campaign, and must be allowed to play without any extra weight on his shoulders. Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Danny Welbeck will surely look to provide the ammunition for him to do just that.
2. Robin van Persie, Holland
RVP, under the direction of new United boss Louis van Gaal, will be desperate to go one step further this year, with the Netherlands having lost to Spain in the World Cup final four years ago in South Africa. While the Dutch are not the force they were back in 2010, in Van Persie they have a world class goalscorer, and if they can give him the service he deserves, he could fire them to glory in Brazil.
1. Juan Mata, Spain
United’s £37m January signing arguably has the best chance of glory in South America, him and his compatriot David de Gea, having already tasted success in South Africa 2010. Spain are the reigning European and World Champions, and while some are starting to doubt whether Mata and his teammates have it in them to retain their crown in Brazil, there can be no questioning the enduring strength of Vincente del Bosque’s side; and it will take something rather special to stop La Roja this summer.