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EURO 2020 Round of 16 Manchester United review

If I told you that Portugal, Netherlands, Germany and France would fail to make it past the round of 16, you would’ve called me a madman. But like Paul Pogba on the pitch, the Euros hasn’t been shy in sending us some curveballs.

With the big hitters and favourites falling at the first hurdle of the knockout race to be named European Champions, the competition is now wide open making the opening weeks of July fascinating for football fans everywhere.

So, what happened to Manchester United’s players during the round of 16?

Wales

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During the group stages, the Welsh dragons captured the hearts and minds of all “work rate” enthusiasts among football fans. While the quality in their star players is clearly on the wane, the passion that hall-marked Wales’ 2016 campaign was there for all to see.

Where did that go vs Denmark? Your guess is as good as mine. Wales just didn’t turn up. Against Italy, we saw glimpses of good football despite the loss. Against the Danes, Wales offered nothing. Our very own Daniel James who had been electric up until that point couldn’t get a sniff of the ball.

The winger had previously been a positive outlet for the Welsh, using his speed to get in behind and get early crosses into the box. However, the Danes gave him very little room meaning he lacked any quality possession. 4-0 was perhaps a harsh way to end their campaign, but Wales’ performance on the day didn’t warrant anything less than drumming.

Daniel James vs Denmark: 3/10

Portugal

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For the second consecutive game, Bruno Fernandes found himself on the bench for a crucial game. While the Portuguese seem to be more balanced and efficient in possession with Joao Moutinho in midfield, it seemed more like the manifestation of a media vendetta against Fernandes.

The rhetoric is that United’s Portuguese Magnifico was more of a Portuguese Fantasma, which means ghost. While his performance against Germany on matchday 2 was one to forget, Fernandes was arguably one of Portugal’s biggest threats against Hungary in the opener, creating the most chances on the day.

The Portuguese were chasing the game due to a Thorgan Hazard wonder strike and had to call on Fernandes to try and muster a comeback. Despite huffing, puffing and Pepe being Pepe with his “over-enthusiastic” playstyle, Portugal failed to change the result. However, Fernandes was one of Portugal’s best players. Granted he had more space to work in as they chased the game but his addition was a welcome one. The corner that Ruben Dias got his head on was Portugal’s best chance.

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Another of Portugal’s welcomed additions was Diogo Dalot who made his full debut. He was a constant threat for the Portuguese playing high and wide as he so typically does. He had this knack to carry the ball to make things happen which makes it all the more confusing as to why he can’t have a role at United. Off the bench, his willingness to run at defences could be beneficial. There are still question marks over his defensive capabilities and they were tested numerous times by the Hazard brothers. However, with some worthwhile coaching, there’s no reason why this aspect of his game shouldn’t strengthen.

Diogo Dalot vs Belgium: 6/10

Bruno Fernandes vs Belgium: 6.5/10

Spain

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David de Gea was an unused substitute in an entertaining 5-3 Spanish victory over the Croats. De Gea is said to have sustained a thigh injury in training, however, should he be fit he may find himself in between the sticks after Unai Simon’s howler which led to the opening goal.

France

Paul Pogba’s France were shocked the heaviest as they were beaten by Switzerland on penalties. Pogba once again used the pitch as a canvas to display his vastly superior passing abilities. His finely weighted passes into the final third gave the French forwards more than enough to take the game.

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Despite taking the game into his own hands with a contender for the goal of the tournament with an ice-cold celebration to boot, the Swiss made a swift comeback to take the game to extra time and then penalties. Pogba opened the Manchester United account at this Euros for goals and what a way to do it.

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Pogba’s leadership shone through for the French for the duration of their campaign. There was some blame thrown his way for the third goal the French conceded however, with four defenders surrounding him there wasn’t much he could do. Additionally, in most circumstances, a midfielder can’t be blamed for a goal when he loses possession at the halfway line.

If that was a mistake, Pogba more than made up for it with his penalty. Right into the top corner, sublime. Kylian Mbappe’s penalty missed sent Les Bleus crashing out of the tournament, with the miss summing up the forwards night.

With the most dribbles, most duels won and four chances created, Pogba can sign out of his international campaign with his head held high.

Paul Pogba vs Switzerland: 8/10

England

The last time England beat Germany in a knockout game was in 1966. The three lions have played four games and remain the only team to have not conceded a goal. Those statistics, coupled with being on the weaker side of the draw on paper. All things seem to be pointing towards football finally coming home.

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Although we don’t want to tempt fate, but for all of England’s criticism for being conservative… they seem ridiculously hard to beat. At no point did it look like England were really under threat of losing the game but when Jack Grealish came on England came alive and took the game to the Germans.

It’s safe to say that, If England win the Euros, Harry Maguire as well as Luke Shaw will have played huge roles. Shaw’s assist for Raheem Sterling’s opener was a fantastic cross, something he’s been doing more in a United shirt. he also played a biography part in England’s second, finding himself playing like a classic trequartiasta.

Maguire even managed the accolade of “Star of the match” becoming the third United player to do so this tournament, alongside Paul Pogba and Victor Lindelof. It was well deserved too after a domineering display aerially and a composed performance on the deck.

Luke Shaw vs Germany: 7.5/10

Harry Maguire vs Germany: 8/10

Sweden

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Sweden are another side that have had a positive tournament. But football, especially international football doesn’t care about all of that. Ukraine beat Sweden’s 2-1 after a last gasp winner in extra time.

Once you got over the fact that the colours of the two sides are completely identical but inverted, you would have witnessed a brilliant game. Emile Forsberg came up with a goal to respond to Oleksandr Zinchenko’s opener. Forsberg’s performances have put him in the hat as one of the players of the tournament and he was in touching distance of being the highest goal scorer in the competition. If the goals were a few inches wider and taller, he’d definitely had it. Didn’t think I’ve seen someone hit the post and bar that many times since 16/17 Paul Pogba.

Lindelof becomes the latest casualty from a United perspective. His tournament as a whole was a strong one but unfortunately for Ukraine’s winner, he was to blame. Something we’ve seen too often is Lindelof’s tendency to lose his man upon a ball coming into the box from a cross. Dovbyk found himself free in the box to put the header away.

The Swedes did have the matter of being a man less to contend with which changed the dynamic of the game, but defensively they weren’t switched on, which ultimately cost them a place in the last eight.

Victor Lindelof vs Ukraine: 5/10

What to look forward to in the knockout stages?

Sweden’s last-minute dismissal means United’s English boys will take on Ukraine in Rome with hopes to progress to the semifinal which will be held at Wembley. Spain and Switzerland will both travel to St Petersburg for their clash. De Gea will be hoping to feature in that one.

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