England manager Roy Hodgson has opted for a squad heavily-influenced by Manchester United ahead of the forthcoming friendlies with the Republic of Ireland and Brazil.
United players have long made up a healthy percentage of the national side but after a campaign which saw the Red Devils canter to a 13th Premier League title, those included in the current set-up look set to push the Three Lions over the qualifying finishing line in style.
While many believe Phil Jones to be over-rated – and it is true that his strongest position is yet to be decided – the former Blackburn man recently came in for high praise from Sir Alex Ferguson.
Fergie claims Jones can go on to be “one of the greatest” players to ever don the United shirt and if the Scot is even half right the England defence will be in safe hands for years to come.
United’s player of the year Michael Carrick is joined in midfield by the highly-rated Tom Cleverly, while forwards Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck need little introduction in the England attack.
With all of these players now boasting experience of success at the highest level – and with Gary Neville assisting in training – the United influence could stand the national side in good stead going forward.
England currently sit second in Group H, two points behind leaders Montenegro, and with their destiny very much in their own hands the 3/1 offered on them winning their remaining fixtures could prove fruitful.
September sees Hodgson’s men play host to Moldova before flying out to Ukraine, while a month later Montenegro and Poland will tread the Wembley turf.
England have failed to beat the so-called stronger teams in qualifying so far but have the advantage of playing Montengro and Poland at home.
The Three Lions are undefeated in seven ties at Wembley and after picking up wins recent wins against Italy and Brazil, will fancy their chances against October’s opponents.
Moldova, ranked 139th in the world, should pose little threat, making the trip to Kiev potentially the trickiest tie.
Those believing that the points already dropped have left England with too big a mountain to climb can back the side not to qualify for Brazil 2014 at odds of 6/1, while 7/2 says that England require a play-off to ensure a ticket to South America.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.