The 2018 World Cup European Qualifiers continued this Friday, and once again we witnessed Manchester United players involved in action. Four United players were on the squad for England and one featured for Armenia, although they all played with different degrees of success both at the collective and individual level.
Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford were all part of the England squad for Friday’s contest against Malta. However, not all of them featured in the match that ended with a comfortable 4-0 win for The Three Lions.
Lingard did not even make the bench for this contest, and Smalling did not leave the bench. But Jones started and played the entire 90 minutes as a centre-back next to Gary Cahill. As one would expect, England did not have a lot of defensive work against a smaller such as Malta. But this start will be a confidence boost for him, especially considering he needs to be fit with lots of fixtures coming towards Manchester United’s way in the coming weeks.
Last but not least, we have Rashford. The youngster came off the bench at half time and did not disappoint. The talented forward collaborated with an assist on England’s fourth goal, courtesy of Harry Kane.
England lead Group F with 17 points. They will play again on September 4 against Slovakia, the team that follows them on the standings two points back. Gareth Southgate men are close to clinch a berth in the 2018 World Cup, and a win against the Slovakian side would put them quite close to their ultimate goal.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan played the entire 90 minutes for Armenia during their 0-1 loss against Romania. The attacking midfielder had to play on a different role, however, as the spent most of the game as a right winger cutting towards the inside of the box. That is quite different to what he does with Manchester United, where he played as an attacking midfielder behind the lone forward.
With the loss, Armenia’s chances to make it to the 2018 World Cup become even smaller. They are seven points behind Montenegro and Denmark, the two teams that currently sit second in Group E. Based on the upcoming fixtures, it would take Armenia to win all of their games and wait for lots of results to go their way to even think about making it to the playoffs.
Armenia play against Denmark on September 4. It is reasonable to imagine Mkhitaryan will lead the side again considering the tough spot the Armenian side finds themselves in.