World Cup ex­its are a bonus for Reds’ pre-sea­son

Manchester Evening News - - UNITED SPECIAL - News­ @MENnews­desk

AT least six se­nior Manch­ester United play­ers will get next sum­mer off.

And that will be mu­sic to Jose Mour­inho’s ears as he looks to­wards a pre-sea­son where most of his se­nior play­ers will be ab­sent for part or all of his prepa­ra­tions.

The 2018 World Cup in Rus­sia means the likes of David de Gea, Mar­cus Rash­ford and Paul Pogba will be late re­turn­ing to United af­ter spend­ing June on in­ter­na­tional duty.

But af­ter the lat­est round of qual­i­fiers, the United man­ager can add Mat­teo Darmian to the list of play­ers def­i­nitely re­port­ing back at the first pos­si­ble op­por­tu­nity af­ter Italy be­came the lat­est big name na­tion to fail to reach the 2018 fi­nals by los­ing over two legs to Swe­den.

How­ever, the same match en­sured that Vic­tor Lin­de­lof will be spend­ing at least part of his sum­mer in Rus­sia, af­ter the cen­tre-back played a key role in help­ing his coun­try reach the fi­nals.

Zlatan Ibrahi­movic’s fu­ture re­mains shrouded in mys­tery. The striker inked a one year deal at United that ex­pires at the end of the cur­rent cam­paign and is the­o­ret­i­cally re­tired from in­ter­na­tional duty - al­though his re­ac­tion to Swe­den’s vic­tory over the Ital­ians sug­gests he may be keen to make a tri­umphant re­turn in Rus­sia.

How­ever, Darmian will def­i­nitely be joined on the first day of pre-sea­son by An­to­nio Va­len­cia and Hen­rikh Mkhi­taryan af­ter Ecuador and Ar­me­nia failed to qual­ify.

Eric Bailly is­sued an apol­ogy to the fans of Ivory Coast, af­ter he was sus­pended for the fi­nal qual­i­fy­ing match and had to watch from the side­lines as the Ele­phants lost to Morocco to doom their hopes of reach­ing Rus­sia.

And the Netherlands also dis­ap­pointed, leav­ing Da­ley Blind and Ti­mothy Fosu-Men­sah’s di­aries empty next June, and the Dutch pair free to re­turn to Car­ring­ton at the first op­por­tu­nity next July.

But while those six are all con­firmed ab­sen­tees, their ranks could be dou­bled by play­ers on the fringes of their na­tional sides.

An­thony Martial has re­ceived a (be­lated) call from Di­dier Deschamps to re­turn to the France squad and has a chance to stake a per­ma­nent claim.

But he was over­looked for the friendlies last June and the qual­i­fiers in Oc­to­ber.

Span­ish duo Juan Mata and An­der Her­rera were both on hol­i­day last week af­ter be­ing un­able to force their way into a com­pet­i­tive Spain set up, al­though bar­ring in­jury De Gea is as­sured of a place.

Chris Smalling might find it dif­fi­cult to con­vince Gareth South­gate he de­serves a spot in the Eng­land squad, af­ter the na­tional team man­ager’s some­what hyp­o­crit­i­cal com­ments about drop­ping him based on play­ing out from the back - de­spite se­lect­ing Joe Hart.

And An­dreas Pereira, whose loan at Va­len­cia is due to ex­pire in June, has rep­re­sented Brazil at a suc­ces­sion of youth lev­els but is yet to re­ceive his first se­nior cap.

Mour­inho’s first pre-sea­son with United was dis­rupted by late re­turns from Euro 2016.

Mat­teo Darmian will be back early for pre-sea­son af­ter Italy failed to reach the World Cup

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