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Have a break, have a Premier League title

While Red Ranter drowns his sorrows in a skanky C-list celebrity (his excuse), Stephen Darwin, who hosts the Soccerlens podcast and the Manchester United podcast for Football FanCast steps, into the breach with a look at what Manchester United’s finest did during the international break.

An international break tends to frustrate me something chronic. Especially when key players are involved in meaningless friendlies against little-known nations with absolutely no chance of getting anything from the game (bar the match-day shirt of one of their prestigious opponents). 

Although after two consecutive defeats (need I remind you), this international break may have actually arrived at just the right time. The lads can now go away with their respective nations, clear their heads somewhat and return with that burning desire to compete on all fronts once again.

So with much of the United squad involved in international matches over the weekend, here’s a brief round-up of who, what, when, where, why and how.

England 4-0 Slovakia – Wembley, International Friendly
United representatives: Wayne Rooney, Ben Foster, Michael Carrick

An incomparably pointless friendly other than to acknowledge the record-breaking 109th cap for David Beckham but I’m sure you will all join me in praising a former United great on the fantastic achievement.

With Rio Ferdinand already ruled out with a back injury, Wayne Rooney commanded the headlines with an excellent performance and two goals to boot. 

Ben Foster made his second appearance in the England goal as a second-half substitute but against a strike-force less potent than Anderson’s right foot, United’s Carling Cup hero was a relative on-looker.

After Heskey came off, followed by Carlton Cole and then Peter Crouch it was time for rival Premier League managers to wince but also time for Michael Carrick to get 15 insignificant minutes and the chance to add another England cap to his CV.

Northern Ireland 3-2 Poland – Winsor Park, World Cup qualifier
United representatives: Jonny Evans

In a match with slightly more at stake, Northern Ireland were victorious over Poland to claim top spot in Group Three.

Jonny Evans could be the key for the Northern Irish if they are to take up a place at South Africa 2010 and he proved just how valuable he is to Nigel Worthington’s team by claiming his first international goal against the Poles.

Argentina 4-0 Venezuela – Buenos Aires, World Cup qualifier
United representatives: Carlos Tevez

Any team comprising of Messi, Tevez and Aguero shouldn’t really struggle to score goals, and in Maradona’s first competitive game in charge, that proved to be the case as Argentina cruised to victory.

Carlos Tevez hadn’t scored in his six previous competitive outings for Argentina, so he will have been delighted to have found the net after Messi had ghosted past the Venezuela defence to create the chance.

Portugal 0-0 Sweden – Estadio Dragao, World Cup qualifier
United representatives: Cristiano Ronaldo

A World Cup without the best player on the world on show? Unthinkable right? Well that could quite conceivably be the case if Cristiano Ronaldo and co. don’t pull their socks up in the coming months.

Former United assistant Carlos Queiroz seems to be having a tough time of it as Portugal’s top man with his side four points adrift of second placed Hungary.

With Nani watching on from the bench, Ronaldo failed to captain his team to victory in a match which Portugal will feel they should have won.

Lithuania 0-1 France – Kaunas, World Cup qualifier
United representatives: Patrice Evra

Patrice Evra played the full ninety minutes for France as they eased past Lithuania to improve their chances of World Cup qualification with Franck Ribery grabbing the decisive goal.

The two sides meet again at the Stade de France on Wednesday and Evra could be in for something of a rocky reception after he slammed French fans for making it feel like every home game seemed like an away match. You tell ‘em Patrice!

Romania 2-3 Serbia – Farul Stadium, World Cup qualifier
United representatives: Nemanja Vidic

Serbia overcame Romania in an eventful qualifying match with Nemanja Vidic in inspired form at the heart of the Serbian defence.

Vidic, arguably our Player of the Season, impressed throughout for the Serbs and picked up the man of the match award for his troubles.

Republic of Ireland 1-1 Bulgaria – Croke Park, World Cup qualifier
United representatives: John O’Shea

The Republic of Ireland and John O’Shea were frustrated by a Bulgaria side without the injured Dimitar Berbatov.

The Republic took the lead inside the first minute with O’Shea heavily involved although Bulgaria fought back and grabbed an equaliser courtesy of a Kevin Kilbane own goal. A cracking finish from the Hull man it must be said.

Holland 3-0 Scotland – Amsterdam Arena, World Cup qualifier
United representatives: Darren Fletcher

Darren Fletcher played the whole match for the Scots in Holland but he was powerless to help the Tartan Army avoid defeat against a strong Dutch side.

Although that said, Fletcher did play a delightful lofted through ball perfectly into the path of Kenny Miller early on but the chance was eventually squandered.

Korea Republic 2-1 Iraq – Suwon World Cup Stadium, International Friendly
United representatives: Ji-Sung Park

Korea Republic prepared for their massive World Cup qualifier against Korea DPR on Wednesday with a friendly win over Iraq.

Despite having only seen the goals in this game, I’m led to believe that Park had a decent game and looked lively throughout.