The World Cup has been a welcome distraction from the domestic football season. As a Manchester United observer I can’t help but keep an eye out for the United players involved in the World Cup. For some, a good World Cup performance is vital to recover a disappointing season and perhaps hang on to a place in the team.
If you take a look at the likes of Wayne Rooney, England, Marouane Fellaini, Belgium, Nani, Portugal, Shinji Kagawa, Japan and Javier Hernandez of Mexico you can see five players in need of a confidence boost.
Confidence is a strange thing in football. As an outsider it is often hard to understand how a player can lack confidence when he gets paid so much money. Also, if he is off form and not playing well he still gets paid so well and the manager stands by his man.
That said, my job is very different to that of a professional footballer. They operate in a high tempo world where you are only as good as your last game. Strikers are expected to score week in week out and yet a 20 goal a season striker is considered a good return for your money. Defenders are expected to win every ball, wingers to pass every man and goalkeepers to keep clean sheets, each and every game.
But what of the five Manchester United players I mentioned earlier? Surely Wayne Rooney does not have to justify his place in the United team? Well, realistically, the team have underperformed all season and Louis Van Gaal will only have the World Cup to see these five players in action before he is selecting a team sheet in August.
Each of these players needs a good World Cup to show the new Manchester United manager that they are worth being the first name on his team sheet. Rooney set up England’s goal against Italy and only faded when he was put out on the left with a heavy defensive responsibility. It is unlikely that this will happen in the next game against Uruguay. Expect Rooney to play in a central role just behind the striker or strikers, his best position when playing under Sir Alex Ferguson. A second assist or even a goal will do a lot to reinforce his importance to Van Gaal.
The World Cup should be a joy to play in, the culmination of hard work and a long qualifying campaign. However, for these five players I suspect it will be no holiday and they can expect a lot of hard work and scrutiny whilst trying to impress the new boss… especially if you meet his free scoring Dutch team during the competition.