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INTERNATIONAL REDS: 15 UNITED STARS ON DUTY

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INTERNATIONAL REDS: 15 UNITED STARS ON DUTY

Report by Matt Bullin

INTERNATIONAL REDS: 15 UNITED STARS ON DUTY

The international break is upon us and no fewer than 15 Manchester United players have left the Aon Training Complex to represent their respective countries in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers. 

We’ve rounded up the fixtures you should look out for, and which of Jose Mourinho’s Reds will likely be in action…

ARGENTINA (SERGIO ROMERO)
United’s back-up keeper is expected to start for Argentina in their crunch upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Peru on Friday and Ecuador five days later. Romero’s side currently sit fifth in a tightly contested South American group, knowing that if they finish in fifth spot, they will face a play-off round in their quest to reach the finals in Russia.

ARMENIA (HENRIKH MKHITARYAN)
Mkhitaryan will spend next summer supporting his team-mates’ international endeavours, as qualification for Russia 2018 is now impossible for Armenia. However, the attacking midfielder will look to lead his country with pride when they face Group E leaders Poland on Thursday, and then bottom side Kazakhstan at the Astana Arena.

BELGIUM (ROMELU LUKAKU, MAROUANE FELLAINI)
Belgium became the first European country to qualify for the World Cup in the last round of qualifiers, as they hammered Gibraltar 9-0, and then overcame Greece 2-1 at the Karaiskakis Stadium. United’s two Belgian aces have been among the top players in the squad in recent weeks, and both will look to carry their form onto the international stage.

ECUADOR (ANTONIO VALENCIA)
Valencia’s Ecuador currently sit eighth in the South American group and, after two disappointing defeats in September, their chances of qualification look very slim. However, the flying full-back will hope to inspire his side to victory in their final two matches against Chile and team-mate Romero’s Argentina.

ENGLAND (PHIL JONES, CHRIS SMALLING, JESSE LINGARD, MARCUS RASHFORD)
Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions are two points clear at the top of Group F, and need one win from their final two qualifiers to seal a place at Russia 2018. All four United representatives will be pushing for a starting berth on Thursday as England host Slovenia at Wembley, and again when the side travel to Vilnius to face Lithuania three days later.

ITALY (MATTEO DARMIAN)
The Azzurri currently lie second in Group G, three points behind Spain, who top the group, and six points clear of Albania in third. Darmian, who currently has 32 caps to his name, will hope to feature against Macedonia and Albania as his side hope for a slip-up by leaders Spain. Interestingly, Italy’s clash with Albania in Shkoder will be the nation’s 800th international match.

IVORY COAST (ERIC BAILLY)
Bailly has been a defensive mainstay for the Reds this term, and he will look to continue that fine form in the Elephants’ penultimate qualifier against Mali on Thursday. Ivory Coast currently sit top of their group, and if they can secure a win this week, they will go a long way to securing their place in Russia.

NETHERLANDS (DALEY BLIND)
The Netherlands currently sit third in Group A, trailing Sweden and France respectively. Blind will look to help his side build on the 3-1 defeat of Bulgaria last time out, first against Belarus on Saturday night, and then when they host Sweden three days later, in a match which could potentially decide which nation goes into the play-offs, if France end up finishing top.

SERBIA (NEMANJA MATIC)
Slavoljub Muslin’s side are four points clear at the top of Group D at the moment, and know a win in Austria on Friday will secure their place in Russia ahead of Republic of Ireland and Wales. Matic, who has been a regular in the Serbian engine room, will then hope to help his team finish their qualifying campaign in style against Georgia on the following Monday.

SPAIN (DAVID DE GEA)
De Gea’s Spain are currently three points clear at the top of Group G, knowing a win against Albania will see their place at the finals all but sealed. And the 2010 winners could hardly be in better form for their crucial match as, last time out, they thrashed Liechtenstein 8-0. De Gea has kept six clean sheets in seven Premier League outings this term – he’ll be looking to show his class again while on international duty.

SWEDEN (VICTOR LINDELOF)
Sweden are just one point behind Group A leaders France, and three ahead of the Netherlands in third, meaning if they can maintain their second-place position, they will secure a place in the play-offs. Lindelof has barely put a foot wrong for Sweden in their qualifying campaign, and he has been equally resolute in his four appearances for the Reds this term.

INTERNATIONAL FIXTURES FEATURING UNITED FIRST-TEAM PLAYERS

THURSDAY 5 OCTOBER
England
v Slovenia 19:45
Armenia v Poland 20:00

FRIDAY 6 OCTOBER
Chile v Ecuador 00:30
Argentina v Peru 00:30
Austria v Serbia 19:45
Mali v Ivory Coast 20:00
Italy v FYR Macedonia 20:45
Spain v Albania 20:45

SATURDAY 7 OCTOBER
Bosnia and Herzegovina v Belgium 18:00
Sweden v Luxembourg 18:00
Belarus v Netherlands 21:45

SUNDAY 8 OCTOBER
Lithuania v England 19:45
Kazakhstan v Armenia 22:00

MONDAY 9 OCTOBER
Serbia v Georgia 19:45
Albania v Italy 20:45
Israel v Spain 21:45

TUESDAY 10 OCTOBER
Belgium v Cyprus 20:45
Netherlands v Sweden 20:45

WEDNESDAY 11 OCTOBER
Ecuador
v Argentina 00:30

All kick-offs in UK time (BST)

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