England’s memorable World Cup adventure came to an end with a crushing semi-final defeat to Croatia in extra time on Wednesday night.
Gareth Southgate’s men played a style of football completely at odds with what had come in the past: a well drilled 3-5-2 system emphasising playing out from the back and building attacks through the middle.
And in the process a country fell back in love with its national team as they broke their penalty curse against Colombia and reached their first semi-final in 28 years with a comfortable win over Sweden.
Amid all of that, how did Manchester United’s four players get on?
There is a case to be made that Lingard was England’s most consistent attacking threat at this tournament. Harry Kane will likely claim the Golden Boot but the Tottenham Hotspur striker petered out in England’s final two games, whereas the 25-year-old was an ebullient live wire throughout.
He set the tone with a rancorous first 30 minutes against Tunisia; scored England’s best goal from open play at the tournament in the trouncing of Panama; claimed an assist for Dele Alli against Sweden. And with better finishing, he would have had another assist for Kane last night – one which would have taken England to the final.
Lingard’s spirit and sense of endeavour epitomised this England team in Russia. He did the No.7 shirt justice and many – even those without an interest in football – have fallen in love with him over this last month.
Like Lingard, the 33-year-old formed an essential part of Southgate’s starting XI at these finals, playing the left-wing back role with guile and authority. He is not a particularly mobile player by any stretch but his temperament in these games has been the reason behind his continued selection.
Some players have it, some players don’t. Young just looks very comfortable on the big stage, enveloping himself tenaciously in the hustle and bustle of a tight, cagey affair.
His set pieces have also impressed. Assists from corners against Tunisia and Sweden should serve as a message to Jose Mourinho for next season.
This will be an experience Rashford will never forget, and always be remembered for. His role in the England team came largely from the bench – his only start, against Belgium, was disappointing – but the minutes on the pitch are irrelevant in a way.
For a player of his age to come to the World Cup and play without fear is what made his World Cup special – and reminder to everybody of the vitality and enterprise he can bring to any game. He changed the feel of the encounter against Tunisia. He buried his penalty beautifully against Colombia. He battled like a demon against a Croatia team turning the screw. He brought bums off seats.
And he will most certainly be back in 2022.
He started against Belgium in what was essentially a dead rubber and failed to offer the assurance playing out from the back offered by John Stones, Kyle Walker and Harry Maguire. At least he didn’t get injured.