Wow! Just simply wow. What start to the knockout rounds it has been. Euro 2021 (2020) has been an absolute gift that just keeps on giving. First we see tournament sweethearts Denmark thrash pro golfer Gareth Bale and Wales 4-0. Then that same evening we see Italy and Austria go to extra time. While on Saturday we saw the Netherlands and Portugal both crash out of the tournament. Then Monday gave us back to back extra time thrillers which saw Spain beat Croatia and the defending World Champions France knocked out on penalties to Switzerland. And finally on Tuesday England beat Germany for the first time since 1966. The Round of 16 was absolutely nuts and the tournament promises only to deliver more. The only shame is quite a few of our Manchester United players are now out of Euro 2021. Let’s break it down.
Euro 2021 – Wales
Well there really is not much to evaluate here. Dan James did start up top on the left again, but after a promising start Wales conceded in the 27′ and it was all downhill from there. The Danes would score 3 more times while having the lion’s share of chances and a bulk of the possession. Dan James didn’t necessarily play poorly and the Wales performance surely can’t reflect on him too much, but he certainly didn’t do anything special. James was subbed off in the 78′ for David Brooks. James has had a tremendous tournament though thus far and this poor outing from Wales shouldn’t distract us from that. With the official signing of Jadon Sancho, James will find it hard to come by starts but he can surely bring his form from the summer into the squad and provide a valuable super sub. With his blistering pace, tenacity, and improving distribution James can be a strong squad player for United well into the future.
Euro 2021 -Portugal
Now this was a dreadful match to watch. Not only was it possibly the least eventful match of the weekend, but it felt as if the goal would not let Portugal score. If you’re a Portugal fan this was an extremely painful one, and if you’re a Bruno Fernandes fan it may have been even worse. Bruno did not start the match, again, and came on in the 56′ for Bernardo Silva. Bruno did provide much more in attack than Silva had, but it still wasn’t a great outing from the United man. In fact, I don’t know that I can recall any meaningful chance created from our Portuguese magnifico. Although, it is important to note Bruno has played more professional matches this past year than any other player in Europe’s top 5 leagues, so fatigue is surely playing a role. I’m sure Bruno will be back to his best next season with some well earned rest this summer. Sorry to be short yet again, but it was another disappointing performance from a United player.
Alright, I promise the last of the negative sections. At least for the most part, I hope. But, yet again another United player crashed out of Europe and did not have an impressive display. Victor Lindelof was to lead Sweden’s defense against a Ukraine side many were surprised to see in the round of 16. Lindelof looked a lot more like the United version of himself than the impressive Swedish defender we typically see for his national team. Ukraine were able to create a high number of chances in the Swedish box. If it were not for Emil Forsberg Sweden would’ve had absolutely 0 going forward. My favorite non United player of the tournament Alexander Isak had a few moments but definitely had his worst performance of the tournament. I’m not really sure what else to analyze from Victor Lindelöf’s performance. The United man was poor, and proved the potential transfer of Raphael Varane is much needed.
Now, we get into the good stuff. France versus Switzerland was possibly the greatest match we’ve ever seen in European Championship history. This match had literally everything. From spectacular goals to late game dramatics this match had it all. Switzerland found themselves surprisingly 1-0 up in the 15′ thanks to Haris Seferovic while the France were only 15 minutes into testing out their new 3-4-1-2 formation. Switzerland also had 3 at the back but they also had actual wing backs playing in the wide positions. France gave us Adrien Rabiot and one time wonder Benjamin Pavard. Anyways, eventually after a penalty miss by Switzerland France equalized thanks to a fabulous goal from Karim Benzema in the 59′. And the French took the lead in the 59′ thanks yet again to Benzema. Then finally, our man Paul Labile Pogba put France ahead 3-1 with an absolutely world class thunder strike in the 75′. Pogba’s strike was nothing short of spectacular and his celebration was Cantona esque’. The Frenchmen was the best player on the pitch for France.
While it is unfortunate that another United player is out of the tournament, the way in which France got knocked out was just brilliant. Switzerland struck twice in the final 10 minutes of regulation to send the match into extra time. Then after 30 minutes of extra time the two sides went to penalties and it was Kylian Mbappe that had his penalty saved by Sommer. The French are out of the Euros, but as United fans we can take pride in Paul Pogba’s display this summer. Let’s just hope he can bring this form back to Manchester United.
Finally we have England. The squad with the most players from Manchester United and the only side to move on. Sorry David De Gea but you don’t play and we’re past you. Anyways, the Three Lions beat Germany at Wembley 2-0 to break their drought against Germany that goes back to 1966. England didn’t play the most exciting football, but it was effective football. Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire both got the start in defense for the Three Lions while Marcus Rashford found himself on the bench. Love him or hate him, as long as Raheem Sterling keeps scoring I don’t see how Rashy gets a start. But the two United players that did start the match were brilliant. Luke Shaw provided the assist for England’s opening goal and Harry Maguire won the man of the match award as England held the opposition to 0 goals yet again. In fact, England have yet to let anyone score against them in this tournament thus far.
Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire will start every England match the remainder of the tournament. The two have looked like world beaters for the Three Lions. Shaw in particular who didn’t start the first match, has made sure with his recent performances that Southgate has no other choice but to pick him. Shaw created chances and was surefire in defense. He is proving that is form this past season wasn’t a one time thing. Let’s hope Rashford gets to see more of the field in the next match for England.
Unfortunately we only have one team to follow the remainder of the tournament as United fans. So start singing it’s coming home because England is officially our team the remainder of the summer. While we had all hoped players like Bruno and Pogba would still be playing at this point, just remember this gives our two midfielders much needed rest before our 2021/22 title challenge.