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Is Manchester United legend Paul Scholes right when says England should be more like Liverpool?

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When a former player like Paul Scholes gives his opinion on the national side, it tends to be that a lot of people sit up and take notice.

Scholes, widely revered during his playing days as a private and quiet individual, has in recent months been more and more vocal about the big footballing issues of today.

His first ever appearance as a pundit came this season for Sky Sports covering the match between his old side United and their local rivals Manchester City.

It was an appearance which sparked a lot of hype, given his aforementioned quiet personality, as well as the significance of the result (United lost 3-0 at home) which drew the line under the notion that United were no longer title contenders.

Scholes declined to take the popular notion that then manager David Moyes was to blame, perhaps due to his strong ties to the club and respect for Moyes, but instead focused on the need for new players, and the 'right backing' from the boardroom.

In recent weeks he has also been critical of England midfielder Jack Wilshere, claiming that he has not progressed in the last couple of years, after being widely hailed as the future of English football.

Wilshere graciously accepted the criticism and even conversed with Scholes on how his game could improve, yet again another mark of the amount of respect a player of Scholes' quality commands.

His latest assertion, that in order to succeed England should play more like Liverpool, is not one that few will argue with, given their scintillating performances in the Premier League this season, but is it really just a case of emulating them on the pitch?

Scholes, writing in his Paddy Power blog, stated "I'd love to see Roy be brave enough to play like Liverpool (or Man United teams of the past)."

But in that statement he also devalues his own claim. The Manchester United teams in question, in which he was a key component, had a strong contingent of English players, arguably stronger than the five Liverpool players who are in England's squad for Brazil.

The Manchester United teams of a decade ago had the likes of Rio Ferdinand, the Neville Brothers, David Beckham, and of course Scholes himself. If you go back slightly further you can add to the mix the likes of Andy Cole and Teddy Sherringham.

And yet the so called 'Golden Generation' failed to live up to the expectations, as England haven't past the quarter final stage of a major tournament since Euro 96', even with this core of players from the dominant domestic side of the time. So by this token, the idea of playing like Liverpool in Brazil is not such an easy concept to actualise.

The five Liverpool players in the squad are club and England captain Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson and Glen Johnson.

Of the five, only two are really certain to play, as captain of the team Gerrard is the first name of the team sheet. Johnson has been England's number one right back for a couple of years now, and the absence of main rival Kyle Walker, plus the fitness doubts of Phil Jones as his cover, have cemented his name in the starting eleven.

As the top English scorer in the league last year, Daniel Sturridge has a very good claim to start up top, but Sterling and Henderson could face stiff competition depending on squad fitness and formation.

Hodgson started all five players in England's last game, a tedious 1-0 win over Denmark in March, but the likelihood of him doing the same against Italy in two weeks time is unclear.

And even if he should start them all, can they really impose the intense attacking style of Liverpool on the opposition, or more importantly, their own teammates?

In fairness, Hodgson has already adopted one Liverpool trait in dropping Gerrard into the same deeper role he plays for his club, but on the other hand, at 34, and with the likes of Wilshere, Barkley and Lallana in the squad, he was hardly going to play him in an advanced role.

Of course, having half the team on the same page domestically will rub off on players, and the players mentioned above could all rally to it, despite playing for different clubs. But one player is always set aside from the others when it comes to England- Wayne Rooney.

What little we have seen of Rooney and Sturridge as a partnership hardly gives for belief that they could be as prolific as Sturridge and Suarez.

But given Rooney's individual significance to the side, should Hodgson need to accommodate one over the other, it will likely be Sturridge who loses out. Should Hodgson play 4-3-3, then Sturridge will probably be pushed out wide, where he isn't as effective.

Rooney could play deeper, behind Sturridge, but then again there are several players in the squad who have filled that spot for their clubs so well this season.

There is no real argument when Paul Scholes says he would like to see England play exciting, attacking football, as every fan who remembers the 0-0 draw with Algeria in South Africa four years ago would agree.

But unfortunately for Roy Hodgson, it is not as simple as that. He can't just say 'play like Liverpool did'. He has to make this side his own, do things his own way, and hope that the performances of all the England players produce something the fans will enjoy.

Paul Scholes, as one of the most technically gifted players of his generation, will undoubtedly know this,  but his point that England should emulate successful sides like Liverpool this season, or the United of yesteryear, is, as always with a man of his calibre, not to be ignored.

 

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