England have crashed out of another tournament in ignominious circumstances and fans will have few fond memories of Euro 2016. For Manchester United fans, it may have all been a little bit too familiar.
Just like last season at Man United, it all started with so much hope. England looked to have assembled a talented squad, full of expensive and highly rated talent. Many pundits were tipping them to go all the way and take the title.
However, initial excitement soon gave way to frustration. England bossed the opening game against Russia, dominating possession, but failed to find a cutting edge. Captain Wayne Rooney was solid in midfield but could not propel England into breaking the deadlock.
An Eric Dier free kick in the second half looked to have saved England blushes. However, their lack of ruthlessness came back to bite them, as Russia scored with a late header. England had dropped vital points against a seemingly weaker opposition.
The game against Wales offered a glimmer of hope. Trailing at half time to a Gareth Bale free-kick, the Three Lions clawed their way back into the game and Daniel Sturridge scored a last minute winner. As with United, England had found a way to grind out a victory against their local rivals. Just like his Dutch counterpart had done on numerous occasions, Hodgson had momentarily saved himself from the sack.
It was the final group game against Slovakia that really echoed van Gaal’s fabled ‘philosophy’. In a prime example of the ‘sideways, possession, boring football’ Paul Scholes has famously derided, England had all of the ball and did nothing with it. Slovakia were content to sit back, with England showing no creativity, no movement, and a lack of willingness to take risks in the final-third. In the end, England hardly troubled the Slovakian goalkeeper and the display was enough to send the nation into a collective coma.
Nevertheless, England found themselves in the second round. They faced Iceland, a small Nordic team with no history in elite competition. England were heavily favoured. Despite taking a lead, they went on to lose 2-1. They were humiliated by the underdogs, who showed more hunger, fight and spirit. Sound familiar?
The one positive was Marcus Rashford. The 18-year-old showed more threat in front of goal in his brief time on the pitch than all of his illustrious senior teammates put together. Rashford couldn’t save England though and he couldn’t save his manager.
Within hours of Hodgson departing, the criticism from the dressing room surfaced. In a picture reminiscent of van Gaal’s player unrest last season, senior England players complained about tactical ineptitude, a stilted system, and unusual team selections. That may have been publicly denied by Wayne Rooney but it’s clear something wasn’t wrong behind the scenes with England.
Now Hodgson has gone, will the FA appoint a dynamic, proven, world class manager to take England to a new era? Possibly one with a proven track record in the Premier League and across Europe? I wouldn’t hold your breath.