Your old Manchester United team-mate Paul Scholes was asked to come out of international retirement by Fabio Capello; could he have had an impact at the World Cup?
Paul Scholes is without a shadow of doubt, one of the finest players to pull on a United shirt. You ask any of the players who played alongside him at international level or for United and they’ll tell you that he’s a fantastic player.
He’s got that uncanny knack of scoring fantastic goals at important times. If you asked any of the best players to name the best midfielders of the last 15 years, they'd all put Paul Scholes at the very top of the list. He’s a wonderful creative midfield player, he can pick a pass, and although tackling isn’t his strong suit, he’s a very intelligent, goal-scoring midfielder.
He’s invaluable. It is a shame that he hasn’t gone along, but he’s been retired now for six years and he’ll feel like he’s done his bit. He’s promised his family holidays and such and it’s very difficult to then change your mind when you have young children to go off and play in the World Cup. I’m sure he thought long and hard about it, but he ultimately chose his family.
Could he have helped solve the Gerrard/Lampard dilemma, given the three of them all played well together at Euro 2004?
It’s an age-old argument this Gerrard and Lampard thing and whether they can play together, and whether they need a holding midfield player to support the defence because they are players who want to make a difference at the attacking end of the pitch.
They are capable of doing the defensive job, but it doesn’t come as naturally as it does to someone like Gareth Barry, or even Scholesy, who can fill that role too. I think great players find a way to play together and Capello plays a formation with the holding midfielder and they’ve proved that they can play together within that system. Gerrard also has potential to play off the frontman, he’s one of those players who wants to take the game by the scruff of the neck ala Wayne Rooney, so Capello has that option available to him too.
I don’t know if any of the other strikers have made a great case to play alongside Wayne Rooney. In the early stages of the tournament I think he’ll go 4-4-2 with Emile Heskey alongside Rooney as he did in the qualifiers. I think he feels Heskey takes the pressure of Wayne Rooney and gives him the space to play in. Capello sees him as the perfect foil for Rooney to score the goals that England need to go further in the competition.
Do you think there’s a possibility of Rooney playing alone upfront as he has for United for big chunks of the season just gone?
I think it’s a possibility against the bigger teams. I don’t think he’ll do it in the group stages, I think Capello will feel like we’re the strongest team in the group and we’ll go out and take the game to all three of the other teams.
As we progress and come up against a team like Spain or Brazil then you’ve got to be a little bit more careful in your approach and it wouldn’t surprise me if we packed the midfield and had Rooney upfront on his own.
Then, as I say, you can play Barry in the holding role and give Lampard and Gerrard the freedom to go on and create further up the field and they don’t have to do as much dirty work. So we’ve got options, he’s pick a squad that gives us plenty of options and I think he’ll have to utilize them all if we’re going to win the World Cup.
Were you surprised that Gary Neville missed out in the end as an experienced back-up?
Gary’s missed so much football this season that it’s not a great surprise he didn’t make it. He got himself back into the reckoning,