Date:Monday October 6 2008
International breaks can be beneficial, whatever managers try to make you believe. Teams are given time to regroup, to nurse their injured players and those going away on international duty can gain fresh confidence that they lacked in the preceding weeks.
Owen Hargreaves might return after the internationals are over and Michael Carrick will be closer to his comeback but on the whole it is undoubtable that United fans cannot be too happy about the disruption of club fixtures at this moment.
Over the last few games it's been increasingly evident that we are approaching top form. Passing became sharper, our attacks were more and more threatening and Berbatov looked like settling in and adapting to our style. Indeed, he was rather enjoying himself on the pitch at Blackburn, something he hasn't done in any of his previous appearances in a United shirt.
And of course there is the cause of Wayne Rooney. I argued that he should be kept safe but as Fergie started him at Blackburn it cannot be said that he is not fit for England. And he's obviously in great form, having scored for the last three games in a row.
Exactly these sort of purple patches are when Rooney is most likely to suffer another injury. And with two England games coming up, there is an issue of potential loss of confidence as well. It is far from certain that the euphoria of England's 4-1 win at Zagreb will be sufficient to take them through Kazakhstan and Belarus. If things don't go as planned, Rooney as the nation's big hoep and a United player will definitely be the first to be criticised. And that could lead to him losing the joy of football he's definitely found recently.
The side issues such as injuries go without mention: these are always dangerous, no matter what form the players carry into international duty. But now we have more to lose than one or two players. It is perhaps lucky that our first game after the break - when we traditionally play somewhat below-par football - is at home against West Brom though Albion started impressively, picking up the points though overshadowed by Hull's more spectacular and unexpected successes.
Oh, but a little optimism would not go amiss. After all, isn't it possible that Rooney and Berbatov will both score hat-tricks for their countries and United will be back, firing on all cylinders after the international break?
Date:Monday October 6 2008
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