Seven Manchester United players -- Rio Ferdinand, Chris Smalling, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Ashley Young, Wayne Rooney, and Danny Welbeck -- have been called into the England squad for upcoming World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro. The inclusion of former England and United captain Ferdinand is certainly the headline news after the defender has not been involved with the national team since June 2011. The 34-year-old has 81 caps and has presumably been called into the squad by manager Roy Hodgson because of 'footballing reasons'. The current central-defender situation for the Three Lions is a bit dire with John Terry's international retirement, Phil Jagielka's ankle injury, Gary Cahill's poor form, and the lack of regular playing for both Joleon Lescott and Smalling. Here is what Hodgson had to say about Rio being recalled:
"A player of Rio's calibre and also of Rio's age, you don't bring them into a squad as back-ups, you bring them into the squad or the team because you want them to make the team better, to give you a better chance of winning. So it wouldn't take too much guesswork to work out that he's in the squad in order to play rather than to make up the numbers. Like all players you select, you select them because you think they're capable of doing the job you want them to do. But who knows what the future holds? 2014 is still a long way off and if Rio is still going the way he is at the moment, in 2014 he is going to be a major candidate for the squad. He has been playing well and his team have been playing extremely well. I think this is the moment to select him because he certainly deserves it on current form."
- Hodgson | Source: TheFA.com
If this is something Rio desires, then that's great for him. United have done well to handle his various ailments in the past few years so hopefully his involvement doesn't disrupt fitness. As Hodgson indicates, Rio is likely to start in at least one of the qualifiers, if not both. United will need him soon after his return from England duty for either the match against Sunderland on March 30 or the FA Cup quarter-final replay against Chelsea on April 1.
Cleverley is likely to be heavily used by Hodgson as the midfielder has been regularly involved in the past year or so. With Jack Wilshere injured (again), Carrick is a strong candidate to deputise. If Hodgson elects to go with a three-man midfield, as he did recently in a friendly against Brazil, then the two United midfielders could be deployed alongside captain Steven Gerrard.
Wayne Rooney is probable to start both qualifiers, either as the lead striker or in support of one. Welbeck is in contention to start as well, either as a strike partner for Rooney or as wide attacker. Young, despite not playing regularly for United as of late, is likely in contention for a wide role.
Here's the full England squad:
* Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Michael Dawson (Tottenham), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), Kyle Walker (Tottenham).
* Midfielders: Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Tom Cleverley (Manchester United), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham), James Milner (Manchester City), Leon Osman (Everton), Scott Parker (Tottenham), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Ashley Young (Manchester United).