Euro 2012 is underway and an array of Manchester’s finest will be gracing Europe’s showpiece event over the next month.
MM takes a look at the impact City and United’s best and brightest will have on their nation’s chances.
Joe Hart – England
Where better to start than at the back with England and City’s number 1. Joe Hart has been in sensational form this season and was central in his side claiming their first title in 44 years. He commands the defence with calm authority and is as reliable as any in the world game in the shot-stopping stakes. One of England’s few world class talents and key if Roy Hodgson’s men are to progress deep into the tournament.
Joleon Lescott – England
The City centre-half had a solid if unspectacular season at the heart of City’s defence alongside Vincent Kompany. Once seen merely as a backup Lescott seems now to be the main beneficiary of Rio Ferdinand’s controversial omission – the ex-Everton man now seems most likely to partner John Terry at the back.
Gael Clichy – France
The French left-back had a great season for the Blues after a summer move from Arsenal. Tireless in both defence and attack, Clichy could challenge the more experienced Patrice Evra for a spot on the left side of the French defence. His versatility could see him slot in further forward in coach Laurent Blanc’s fluid system.
James Milner – England
The ultimate workhorse James Milner seems to be the epitome of a ‘Roy Hodgson player’. His work rate and positional discipline could see him play in the right side midfield role. While he may not have the speed and explosion of a Theo Walcott or an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, he provides balance on that flank and his presence there could give captain Steven Gerrard added licence.
Samir Nasri – France
The Frenchman struggled in the early part of his City career after making the move from Arsenal but as the season went on he made a more significant contribution. A supremely talented player able to play in a variety of forward positions Nasri is a certainty in Blanc’s starting 11. Alongside Franck Ribery he will hope to provide the ammunition for prolific Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema.
Nigel De Jong – Netherlands
The tough-tackling midfield man while not guaranteed a place in Roberto Mancini’s side is one of the first names on the Netherlands teamsheet. Taking the role of ‘enforcer’ alongside Mark Van Bommel, De Jong does the leg work that allows the likes of Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Robin Van Persie to put teams to the sword. De Jong is an unsung hero who may use the tournament as an audition for a post-Euro move.
David Silva – Spain
One of City’s star performers is a victim of the sheer depth of the defending champions’ world class squad. With the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Cesc Fabregas all vying for midfield spots Silva could find himself warming the bench despite a standout season. Coach Vicente Del Bosque is a fan of the City talisman which could see him used as an impact substitute should the Spaniards need it.
Mario Balotelli – Italy
Why always him? A talented enigma who is never far from the headlines, Mario is undoubtedly a gifted player. He could be a key man for an Italian side who are low on form and confidence, and have been engulfed in a pre-tournament match fixing storm. He has already made headlines in Poland and Ukraine with his much publicised stance on racism in the tournament. Balotelli can play through the middle as the classic number 9 or may move out to the left to accommodate AC Milan striker Antonio Cassano.
Phil Jones – England
Jones is another who may well benefit from teammate Rio Ferdinand’s omission from the squad. He is capable of playing at both centre-half and right-back as well as perhaps providing an option as a covering midfielder. Strong and physical combined with a great engine, Jones is undoubtedly a talent for the future but his role this time around could well be restricted to substitute appearances.
Patrice Evra – France
The experienced left-back is a seasoned campaigner and no stranger to the rigours of tournament football. He is one of the first names on Blanc’s teamsheet and will be crucial if his side are to fulfil their role as tournament dark horses. Strong in all facets of the game he has been a key contributor in a run which has seen his side go 21 games unbeaten coming into the competition.
Ashley Young – England
In the absence of club mate Wayne Rooney, it could be argued that Ashley Young is England’s star turn and most important player. Two footed with an eye for goal the ex-Aston Villa man had a solid first season at Old Trafford and showed glimpses of real quality. His club connections with the likes of Welbeck and the aforementioned Rooney could see the trio inject some much needed dynamism into a conservative looking squad.
Danny Welbeck – England
A newcomer on the international stage Welbeck has looked assured in his appearances so far and, at the time of writing, looks likely to make a start up front in the Group D opener against France. A composed goalscorer with an experienced head on young shoulders, the United man looks like being a fixture in the national side for years to come.
Wayne Rooney – England
England’s only true world class talent, a one man team at his best and at times an unplayable force. Capable of scoring from anywhere and blessed with unique vision and creativity he is the key man in Hodgson’s ‘new England’. Unfortunately his penchant for red mist has landed him with a two match suspension for the beginning of the tournament. Both Hodgson and the England faithful will be hoping they are still in the tournament by the time he returns.
Nani – Portugal
A top-class dribbling and goal-scoring winger, has shrugged off Cristiano Ronaldo's ghost at both Manchester United and in a national shirt. Struggled with injury and form last season, but is capable of anything with a ball.