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Manchester United at Euro 2016: Players to watch

by Sathesh Alagappan

The Premier League season is over but there is still plenty of football to keep you occupied this summer. Euro 2016 is just around the corner and the Red Devils are well represented with ten players in the tournament. Here’s who to keep an eye out for.

Anthony Martial (France)
Martial has been in impressive form this season. His pace, dribbling ability and excellent finishing have made him Manchester United’s prime attacking threat.

French manager Didier Deschamps has taken notice. Martial is now vying for a starting spot in the front-three along with Dimitri Payet, Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud.  He has impressed in France’s pre-tournament friendlies and looks set to have a big impact. He could be one of the breakout stars of the finals.

Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany)
Schweinsteiger is the captain of the German national team with 114 caps to his name and was pivotal in helping Germany lift the World Cup two years ago. However, the central midfielder has suffered an injury-ravaged season, having not played for Man United since March.

Nevertheless, Joachim Löw has kept faith in his captain, giving him playing time in Germany’s recent friendlies. Although his lack of match fitness may see him miss the opener against Ukraine, he will no doubt play an important part thereafter. His experience, maturity and sublime passing ability make him indispensable when fully fit.

David de Gea (Spain)
David de Gea-min (3)
There is no doubt that David de Gea is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. His heroics in goal led to him being named United’s Player of the Season for an unprecedented third time in a row.

Amazingly though, De Gea is not guaranteed a starting place in the Spanish side. He faces stiff competition from veteran captain Iker Casillas. Casillas has served his nation well over the years but it may be time for a changing of the guard.

Wayne Rooney (England)
Wayne Rooney-min
This season has been mixed for Rooney. His goalscoring tally was modest and he admittedly struggled for form early on. However, his performances in the latter half of the term have been commanding and he seems to have regained some confidence.

There is always controversy regarding Rooney and the England setup. Some have called for him to be dropped. Despite this, he is the captain and the all-time leading English goalscorer. His experience will be invaluable for the Three Lions. As this could prove to be his last major international tournament, he will be looking to go out with a bang.

Chris Smalling (England)
Chris Smalling-min
Smalling has been solid and dependable in defence for United this year. Out of all the English centre backs in the Premier League, he has stood out.

This makes Smalling the man poised to lead England’s defence this summer. The back-four has rightly been identified as England’s weak point. Therefore, Smalling will have a considerable task on his hands. United and England fans will be hoping he can rise to the challenge.

Marcus Rashford (England)
It really is the fairytale story. Unheard of outside of Manchester just over 100 days ago, he has had a meteoric rise to become United’s first choice striker. The 18-year-old has continued to defy expectations on the international stage. He was a surprise inclusion in England’s final-23, and he scored within two minutes of his debut against Australia.

Rashford is unlikely to start for England, with Vardy, Kane and Rooney all in contention. He may well be a useful option off the bench, however. A few goals in France will really cap off an incredible year for the young man.
Morgan Schneiderlin (France)

Schneiderlin has slowly started to find his feet at Old Trafford after a rocky start. However, it seemed his inconsistent form had cost him his international place as he was initially only placed on France’s standby list.

The defensive midfielder gained a reprieve thanks to the injury of Marseille’s Lassana Diarra. It remains to be seen whether he will earn a starting spot, considering the emergence of Leicester’s N’Golo Kante. Nevertheless, he will be a useful option for Deschamps to turn to.

Paddy McNair (Northern Ireland)
The youngster has a bright future ahead of him at Old Trafford. Despite being used as a central defender at United, Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neil has deployed him as a defensive midfielder. McNair has adapted to the position well so far and he may well be one of the surprise packages of the tournament.

With Northern Ireland likely to play a conservative and defensive style, McNair will be pivotal to the team’s chances.

Matteo Darmian (Italy)
Matteo Darmian-min
The versatile full-back was a starter for Italy during the 2014 World Cup. He faces tough competition this time around, however. Conte looks likely to replicate the Juventus backline for the national team. Darmian is still an immensely useful player and has the ability to slot into numerous positions. He can still play an important role for Italy in Euro 2016.

Marouane Fellaini (Belgium)
Fellaini has struggled to establish himself at Old Trafford since his move to United in 2013. Despite this, he has been a lynchpin of the Belgium national and now has 67 caps and 15 goals. He heads to Euro 2016 as Belgium’s top goalscorer in the squad.

That being said, his starting place is in doubt for this tournament. Belgium has a wealth of talent in the midfield with the likes of Radja Nainggolan, Axel Witsel, Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard. Fellaini will have to fight for his place.

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