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Opinion Piece

Reds World Cup Watch Part 2 – The Bads

2373674_full-lndAs we’ve seen in the first part of our recap on the performance of United players in Brazil, the World Cup has been kind to some United players so far, but others have either struggled or have not been given the chance to shine yet. Here we take a look at those Reds for whom Brazil hasn’t been a place so far.


If this was the summer in which Nani was going to put himself in the shop’s window, then rest assured the shop has already been shut, customers have turned away horrified and Nani isn’t going anywhere. Despite having played just a handful of games in the second half of the season, Nani was in the starting line-up for Portugal’s opener against Germany, after impressing in the warm-up friendlies.

His performance was as Naniesque as they come – wasteful in possession, constantly in the wrong position – the way he took the ball of Fabio Coentrao’s feet when the Real Madrid full-back was lining up a shot from a much better angle than the one Nani was in was nothing short of comical – and generally looking his usual, petulant self.

Having been linked with a move away from United since January, the next two World Cup games could go a long way in deciding his future – will Van Gaal be prepared to take a punt on him or will United manage to lure a club into taking Nani off their hands?

Javier Hernandez

Chicharito’s troubled season shows no signs of improving after he was dropped for Mexico’s first two games in favour of Oribe Peralta, as the Manchester United striker was one of the many Mexican players plying their trade abroad to pay the price for Miguel Herrera’s policy of opting for Mexico-based players.

Chicharito played just 32 minutes over Mexico’s two opening games, coming off the bench to replace Peralta against Cameroon and Brazil and had very little chance to make an impact, managing only two shots on goal and failing to convert a glorious chance against Cameroon. With Mexico facing a crucial game against Croatia on Tuesday, it’s hard to fathom Herrera deciding to alter his starting XI and Hernandez looks destined for a place on the bench again, particularly as both Dos Santos and Peralta have impressed in their first two appearances.


Hernandez had been warned by the Mexico coach that failure to play regularly at United could hinder his chances at international level and looks likely to leave Old Trafford in the summer.

Danny Welbeck

It’s hard to dislike Welbeck and it’s hard to deny that he put in a good shift in both England games, doing exactly what Roy Hodgson asked him to do – stretching the defence and trying to get in behind the line.

Unfortunately for him, it’s also difficult to argue that if he could add an end product to his game his efforts would be much more appreciated, both at club and international level, where Welbeck isn’t helped by the fact of playing for United for, perhaps not surprisingly, he’s always criticised for his perceived lack of contribution.

Welbeck played 61 minutes against Italy before being replaced by Ross Barkley, while he was given an extra 10 minutes against Uruguay before being replaced by Adam Lallana and he averaged four more touches per game than he did at club level last season, a sign that he’s not one to shy away from responsibility. However, having previously claimed he wanted to be given a chance as centre-forward, Welbeck has been played out wide by Hodgson and it’s hard to see that changing under Van Gaal.

Uruguay v England: Group D - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

Shinji Kagawa

Much as in Hernandez’s case, Kagawa’s lack of regular at club level looks to have affected his performances for the national side, with the Japanese struggling to impose himself at the World Cup for now. Having started Japan’s opening game, Kagawa was a second half substitute as his team struggled to break down a Greece side that played for over 45 minutes with 10 men and his future at United remains very much up in the air.

And the others…

Phil Jones, Chris Smalling

Neither played a minute as England’s World Cup campaign unravelled and, perhaps, they’re so much better for it. Having experienced a season with more lows than highs the last thing Jones and Smalling needed was to be thrown at the deep end of a World Cup that looks doomed after two games, not to mention that Jones would have probably got injured anyway.

Juan Mata, David De Gea

As Spain’s cycle came to an end, neither Mata nor De Gea could be blamed for the defending champions’ spectacular capitulation, if anything quite the opposite.

Mata looked on from the bench as Spain’s decision to abandon their tested “false nine” formation in favour of a 4-2-3-1 to accommodate Diego Costa quickly turned into a nightmare, as Vicente Del Bosque’s men looked bereft of the intensity and rhythm that had mesmerised the world for the last six years.


In Spain’s opening game against Holland, Mata watched on from the bench as David Silva, Andres Iniesta and Xavi started, with Cesc Fabregas coming on as a sub. When Del Bosque did opt to change his personnel after being annihilated by the Dutch, there was still no room for Mata, as Pedro replaced Xavi alongside David Silva and Iniesta against Chile and the United midfielder was an unused sub as Santi Cazorla, Koke and Fernando Torres were brought on.

De Gea, meanwhile, was United’s best player last season, keeping 20 clean sheets in a beleaguered campaign and must surely be given the chance to shine for his national side now, after Iker Casillas produced a series of uncharacteristic mistakes which cost his team very dearly and probably brought down the curtain on his international career.

Adnan Januzaj

Has watched on from the bench in Belgium’s first game but could make his debut at some stage over the next two games.