by Kieran Mather
As we entered the final five minutes at the Etihad Stadium last Sunday Manchester United had finished their game at Sunderland and were poised to be crowned champions. Manchester City were 1-2 down at home against Queens Park Rangers and needed two goals without reply. Within moments Manchester City were 3-2 up and had somehow pulled off a stupendous turn-around, the likes of which we shall probably never witness again.
But what bearing does this incredible finale have on the European Championships in Poland & Ukraine in June? Lifting the trophy at the Etihad were four England internationals, Nigel De Jong of the Holland squad, two of the French team and David Silva of Spain.
In Manchester United’s camp four England players, Nani of Portugal, Patrice Evra of France and Spain’s David de Gea endured the heartbreak of finishing second and ending the season without silverware.
These players after the Barclays Premier League season have both played a relative number of competitive games. None of them won a domestic cup competition or a European competition either – the league was literally all they had to play for. It was the closest fought Premier League since its formation, a play off for the title was out of the question on the last day but mathematically wasn’t far from a reality.
So heading off to Poland this summer as a Manchester United player, the desire to win something this season must be there, but to have come so close is the mentality still strong? To have it snatched away from your reach brutally in injury time of a game you had no control over, surely Roy Hodgson will see a difference in Phil Jones compared to Joleon Lescott. Surely such a loss – still fresh in their minds – will have a lingering and damaging effect on the United players’ psyche?
In the England 23 there are two from Tottenham who may have just missed out on Champions League football who might want to perform above the other English players to attract a bid off a top three team or Chelsea in order to play in next season’s champions league. Van der Vaart and William Gallas may hold similar ambitions Likewise if Chelsea do not gain automatic qualification into next season’s Champions League Torres, Ashley Cole, Drogba, Terry and Lampard will still not have put their hands on the sacred trophy throughout their careers and may want to ensure they secure a move to a club guaranteed to be competing for it at Wembley in 2013. No matter how renowned they already are treating the tournament as a shop window for their talents can only benefit their respective nations.
With Liverpool winning the Carling Cup and Chelsea winning the FA cup (go on then, with Budweiser) the majority of Roy Hodgson’s players for this summer’s tournament have winner’s medals glistening in their cabinets which promotes a confident, positive mentality and learned behaviour that will hopefully provide an upbeat training camp. Can the same be said of the contingent from Old Trafford? Will this have any bearing on Hodgson’s team selection?
Another team releasing a large percentage of their players are Arsenal. Those travelling from North London to Poland and the Ukraine include Theo Walcott, Arteta, Diaby, Mertesacker and Robin van Persie.
Having secured Champion’s League football on the final day after a bitterly-fought protracted battle it is fair to assume these group of Gunners will view the tournament as a release, and additionally feel revitalised. I expect decent performances from each.
Despite ultimately missing out on a top four spot the same scenario applies for players who have enjoyed a fabulous season at St James Park.
For all of these players and the lack of trophies won between them this season, or the absence of Champions League football next season they’ve all got points to prove to the media, pundits, fans and themselves this summer. Whether it brings a negative or positive reaction is yet to be seen but only players from Manchester City, Newcastle and Tottenham can truly say they’ve achieved something this season and made managers, fans and chairmen happy.
One thing that is left for all of the above to do is to go to Poland & Ukraine next month and make their fellow countrymen happy too.