With an FA Cup final and runners-up spot in the EPL all but tied up, it’s been a moderately successful season for United. Come the season’s end most of the squad won’t be thinking about their summer holidays, but instead the month (or less) they’ll be spending in Russia at the 2018 World Cup Finals.
Here’s a quick run-down of the United players likely to feature in 2018’s premier international tournament.
Romelu Lukaku & Marouane Fellaini
Lukaku may have his critics, but he’s scored more goals for United this season than he did for Everton last term, although he has played more games. He’s pivotal to Belgium, who could be a surprise package in the Russian finals, given the amount of talent they have at their disposal. Fellaini’s United career is all but at an end, but he’ll be on the plane to Russia, that much is certain.
Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Luke Shaw, Ashley Young, Jesse Lingard & Marcus Rashford
It’s unthinkable for an England World Cup finals squad not to contain a Manchester United player (the only time this may have happened would have been in 1974 when United were relegated, but England didn’t qualify for the finals in West Germany that year) but just how many will make the final cut is anyone’s guess.
Lingard and Rashford are definites, with Young and Jones probables. Chris Smalling’s improved form of late may see him earn a call up, but Luke Shaw’s chances are minimal. Expect Rashford to have the biggest impact on England’s chances, although he of course will have to play second fiddle to media darling Harry Kane. How about a cheeky punt on the WC for Rashford to be England’s leading World Cup Finals goalscorer?
David de Gea, Juan Mata & Ander Herrera
Along with Germany and France it’s thought that Spain have the best chance of securing a European victory in Russia. David de Gea will be key to Spain’s chances, and the tournament will give United’s number one the chance to cement his position as the best goalkeeper in the world.
Both Herrera and Mata are likely to be watching the finals from home, especially Mata who’s fallen out of favour with Spain’s coach Julen Lopetegui and hasn’t picked up a cap since November 2016.
Matic is another assured selection for the World Cup finals, being a regular for his country since 2012. Just how well the Serbian team will do is anyone’s guess, though. Nottingham Forest fans will remember the reign of comedy goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic and shudder, while the Serbian attack is led by Alexsandar Mitrovic, who’s had to drop down to the Championship with Fulham from Newcastle in order to receive sufficient playing time.
Paul Pogba & Anthony Martial
The 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil was a memorable one in countless ways for Pogba. He was selected for the squad despite at the time only having eleven caps for his country, then scored in the round of sixteen game against Nigeria and ended up being voted as the tournament’s best young player. He is likely to make an even bigger impact this time around.
Martial should make the final squad despite only scoring once in eighteen internationals for his country.
Sergio Romero & Marcos Rojo
Romero has only played cup games for United this season, which is understandable given the form of David de Gea, while Rojo has played league games but only seven of them. Both though will definitely be members of Argentina’s final squad, along how the country’s ageing team will fare is something of a contentious issue.
Despite the young defender’s ‘more miss than hit’ season for the Red Devils, Lindelof will be enjoying a summer in Russia with the Swedish international football side.
Definitely missing out in Russia through non-qualification will be Eric Bailly (Ivory Coast), Alexis Sanchez (Chile), Daley Blind (Netherlands), Antonio Valencia (Ecuador), Matteo Darmain (Italy) and Timothy Fosu-Mensah (Netherlands).