International break is about as popular among United fans as Ed Woodward riding a gold plated limo in to Old Trafford blasting out “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from its radio, but there is the occasional ray of light from what’s typically an exercise is awfulness. As you’d expect from a club that’s not only been home to some of the best players on the planet over the years, but also embraced multiculturalism the way Tommy Robinson embraces the end of it, the Reds have had more than our fair share of gifted international players.
Here’s a top five of the goals scored by United players while representing their clubs.
5. Paul Scholes – England vs Tunisia (1998)
If it wasn’t for race horse owner and former helicopter salesman Michael Owen scoring a wonder goal against Argentina three games later, we’d be talking about Paul Scholes’s strike against the Tunisians far more than we do. In the World Cup group game opener all eyes were on Glenn Hoddle’s England, who many predicted could be the dark horses of the tournament, having won the Le Tournoi prior to France ’98 and with much of the same squad which made the semis of Euro ’96 – not to mention some younger additions. Scholes’s perfectly curled turn and shot from the edge of the box ensured England began the tournament with a comfortable 2-0 win over the African minnows which had the fans daring to believe they were witnessing the start of something special. Plot spoiler: They weren’t and the tournament ended with England fans wanting to kill one of Scholes’s United team mates. Literally.
4. Bryan Robson England vs France (1982)
The saddest part of Bryan Robson’s goal against France in the Spain 1982 England group game opener is that it was arguably the highlight of ‘Captain Marvel’s’ World Cup career. Ron Greenwood’s decision to give Trevor Brooking and Kevin Keegan just 27 minutes in a must-win game against Spain, which saw both miss chances as England crashed out after a draw, saw the Three Lions fall short of reaching the semis. For Robson though, scoring a goal which was then labeled the ‘quickest in World cup history’, although there was some dispute at the time, against France after just 27 seconds, gave him the perfect platform for what should have been an illustrious World Cup career. Injuries robbed the United and England skipper of playing more than a bit part in the following two tournaments, but that strike against France gave, the nation and Reds everywhere something to cheer about and more than a little hope.
3. Paul Pogba France vs Croatia (2018)
As Churchill once noted, ‘never in the history of human sport has one player been so hated so much by so few.’ Part of the reason United fans took such joy in Paul Pogba’s World Cup success was because it came on the back of a few ex-Liverpool players questioning the midfielder’s ability beyond the realms of wisdom. Graeme Souness and Mark Lawrenson spoke about Pogba in a manner normally reserved for someone who’s burgled your house, on Christmas Eve – and left bits of Lego all over the floor. Despite his Scouse detractors, Pogba had a wonderful tournament and the icing on the cake was his left-footed strike which more or less sealed victory in the final. Cue lots of anger in the Souness/Lawrenson household as United fans joined Les Bleus supporters in celebrating a much-deserved French triumph.
2. David Beckham England vs Greece (2001)
Few Reds would have blamed David Beckham if he’d placed his late free kick deliberately into the Stretford End when England faced Greece in a World Cup qualifier where a draw would see them through. The man soon to be referred to as ‘Golden Balls’ had been hounded by the press, pundits and rival fans following his harsh sending off in 1998 in a way that was literally criminal and saw unprecedented levels of idiocy. Burning effigies, threats to his family, a national newspaper making a ‘David Beckham dartboard‘, who could have blamed United’s number seven if he’d thrown it all back in his haters faces by simply sending his stoppage time free kick into tier two. Beckham wanted redemption not vengeance though and boy did he get it as his perfectly placed strike saw England qualify for the World Cup in 2002, United fans jubilant and England’s neanderthals eat their moronic words. Hurrah.
1. Bobby Charlton England vs Mexico (1966)
If there’s one player who deserved World Cup success more than any other in English football history, then it’s surely Sir Robert Charlton. Not only did the United legend score 49 times for his country, not only did he mark Franz Beckenbauer out of the game (twice, Sir Alf Ramsey’s decision to sub him in Mexico 1970 often blamed for England’s subsequent defeat), Charlton was also part of the 1958 squad despite seeing many of his United team mates (and England ones) perish in the Munich disaster only four months previously. 1966 saw the nation expecting England to be triumphant on home soil but following a drab 0-0 opening draw against Uruguay it wasn’t until Bobby ‘belted the ball‘ in against Mexico that the Three Lions truly embarked on the path to ultimate victory.