Manchester United have three players in Euro 2020 team of the tournament so far

Off the pitch, Jadon Sancho is about to become a Man United player and on it most of their players are performing on international duty.


The ‘United > England’ banner that used to be ubiquitous after international tournaments may have been retired.

Little Inglanders have not scapegoated a Manchester United player for over a decade and Harry Maguire is serenaded more than any other England player.

Luke Shaw is now recognised as a world-class full-back north and south of the M6 and Marcus Rashford, though peripheral for England, is more revered for what he has accomplished beyond the pitch.

Gareth Southgate does not need a trophy to be considered a successful England coach, not that he is settling with another last four appearance. He has reconnected the team with a fanbase left disenchanted by the Baden Baden circus, drawing with Algeria and the nadir of Iceland.

This England squad is genuinely likeable and has a social conscience. Should they receive an invitation to 10 Downing Street, you would hope they would reject it. Southgate and his players are wise to these government charlatans potentially wrapping themselves in a St George's flag to get a boost in the polls.

England internationals once doubled as a gathering for bilious baiting of United and its players. ‘Stand up if you hate Man U’ soundtracked plenty of internationals at the old Wembley and before David Beckham became a PR-massaged cheerleader, he gave England fans the finger in Eindhoven at Euro 2000.

It was once so fashionable to cast a United player as the pantomime villain that Roy Keane was booed for telling Mick McCarthy where to stick it in the Republic of Ireland camp in 2002.

That Maguire has retained his popularity after transferring to United from an England-supporting stronghold in Leicester is testament to his class at international level. He has been one of the standout centre halves at a tournament he missed the first two games of.

United have enjoyed a fruitful summer with the Euros and Copa America. Diogo Dalot earned his international breakthrough, Bruno Fernandes has gone more than a fortnight without a start, Daniel James was stimulated, Victor Lindelof impressed against Spain, Scott McTominay helped neuter England, Edinson Cavani has been among the goals and Fred is a Brazil starter.

Shaw has as many assists at a European Championship as Beckham in 2000 and his form over the last year has elevated him to the best left-back around.

"I think the one that should be in a couple of years the best of all - because potentially he should have all the conditions to be the best of all - is Luke Shaw," his manager said in March 2017. His manager was Jose Mourinho.

Context is key and, as fraught as Shaw and Mourinho's relationship was at United, his professionalism required management minus the kid gloves. The left-back got going when the going got tough in Mourinho's final months.

Shaw enjoyed la dolce vita in Rome, where Mourinho touched down on Saturday, and assisted Maguire from a set-piece. United are yet to benefit from that set-piece combination and Maguire should have more than five goals for the club.

Mourinho's analysis of Shaw has been through a Roma prism. Leonardo Spinazzola, the other outstanding full-back at the Euros, is a right-footer but went inside and outside down the left for Italy before his crushing Achilles injury against the Netherlands. There has not been a right-back to rival Spinazzola or Shaw's performance level over the last month.

When you still haven't got over the Chelsea contract rejection
When you still haven't got over the Chelsea contract rejection

Wayne Rooney provided another engaging column for The Sunday Times , opining Paul Pogba was the player of the tournament prior to France's elimination. Uefa has awarded the man of the match 11 times to a midfielder at the Euros, with Kalvin Phillips dubiously overlooked for England's opening win over Croatia and Pogba in France's absorbing draw with Portugal.

Pogba was France's standout performer in three of their four matches and key in all but two of their seven goals. He was the most consistent in the erratic round-of-16 collapse against Switzerland, when Pogba clipped in one of the goals of the tournament.

While there has been a myriad of excellent midfield performances, only Nicolo Barella of Italy and Spain's pocket dynamo Pedri have performed comparably with Pogba. Come the official team of the tournament, there is unlikely to be room for Pogba but no midfielder has hitherto reached his imperious heights.

The former France midfielder Emmanuel Petit has already attempted to scapegoat Pogba, claiming he 'lost the plot' against the Swiss. If Pogba is still residing in Hale beyond August, he might approve of a 'United > France' banner.

Writer's Euro 2020 team of the tournament so far (3-5-2): Donnarumma, Spinazzola, Chiellini, Kjaer, Maguire, Shaw, Barella, Pogba, Pedri, Sterling, Schick

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