The England manager will arrive at Old Trafford this afternoon knowing that victory over Austria, combined with a Dutch triumph over the Czech Republic, would confirm a place at next summer's World Cup regardless of Wednesday's result against Poland. Mindful of the damage England's recent performances against Denmark, Wales and Northern Ireland have caused to his credibility, however, the Swede has told the public to expect not only a show of style from his players in Manchester but a demonstration that he - and not Beckham or any other experienced international - has absolute control over the team and is unafraid of upsetting his highest-profile players.
Rio Ferdinand is now the most vulnerable to Eriksson's rediscovered ruthless streak against the Austrians, one that he revealed to the rest of the England squad this week when he outlined their failings at Windsor Park during a "monologue" in training.
Eriksson said yesterday: "If you asked my friends if I was ruthless they would say, 'Sometimes, not very often, but sometimes'. But why should I show you that side? If you are angry, you can get that message out to one player, other players, by talking to them. It is not necessary you shout at them if you are angry. You can tell them. Every player in the England team, every player I have ever had, knows if I am happy or angry.
"When we have poor performances, as we have done, it was necessary to take a long discussion with them. It was not a discussion really, it was more of a monologue. When things go wrong as they did last time it's not one thing, it's a combination of things going wrong. But I talked to the players about one special thing, although I am not going to say what in public."
Eriksson denied he has encouraged a comfort zone to develop with England, "They all have to play for their shirt. If we don't perform as we can perform the risk is enormous," he said, and confirmed he could not accommodate Ferdinand, Sol Campbell and John Terry in his defence. "Many times I have to take difficult decisions, and this is one of them. If you are not prepared to take difficult decisions, you shouldn't be in this job, especially when the team is not performing as in the last three games."
A window at Eriksson's Regent's Park home was smashed on Monday but he sees no correlation between that act and his waning popularity after the humiliation in Belfast. "It is correct I have had some damage done to my house. That's the third time," he revealed. "I don't think it has anything to do with the England fans."
The England captain Beckham will play despite concerns over the health of his son, Romeo, this week, but he has passed responsibility for penalties to Frank Lampard after the events of Euro 2004.
Eriksson admits the Real Madrid midfielder approached him with the idea almost three months ago, but was unaware the role had formally changed until it was made public yesterday morning.
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