Hargreaves the Keep England Tidy campaigner

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The Independent Online

It is not hard to see the attraction of Old Trafford. The usually-brimming stands dominate the skyline and the ground is steeped in memories. And, just in case we are getting too misty-eyed about a patch of green surrounded by great lumps of concrete, there was a whopping great pay rise if Owen Hargreaves had moved from Bayern Munich to Manchester United.

The transfer deadline has come and gone - although we await news of how Chelsea and Arsenal have persuaded the Football Association to extend it into September - and Hargreaves is tied to Bayern for the foreseeable future. But he was insistent he wanted to play at Old Trafford and he managed it yesterday, even if it was in the white of England rather than the red of United.

Which, while he is no doubt disappointed the putative £17m deal fell through, still is a part-fulfilment of his Theatre of Dreams. Two months ago the name of Hargreaves would provoke a groan whenever his name was linked to the England starting line-up; now he is such a permanent fixture, David Beckham has been discarded to make room for him.

Hargreaves was called a "prostitute" by the Bayern general manager, Uli Hoeness, when it appeared he might be on his way to United and it is undoubtedly true that he was a rare England creature in improving his street value during a World Cup campaign that has become a byword for uninspiring. His stock rose as Sven Goran Eriksson's plummeted and he is now an overnight sensation, give or take yesterday's match with Andorra, which marked his 36th cap.

His job, essentially, is a simple one. Make a nuisance of yourself when the opposition is in possession and then pass the ball to a more creative player. Simple that is except that Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, two players with the words "world" and "class" regularly used in conjunction with their names, could not master it between them in Germany. Indeed the last person to do this bits-and-pieces job with true accomplishment was Nicky Butt who came away from the 2002 World Cup with Pele's praises ringing in his ears.

The true value of this embodiment of Keep England Tidy, however, is that he allows others to advance safe in the knowledge the gaps are being filled behind them. In yesterday's programme Sir Trevor Brooking, who is as qualified as anyone in recognising a good midfield player, wrote of Hargreaves' work ethic and enthusiasm, describing him as a "driving force" and a "catalyst for everyone around him".

Of course it is one thing acting as nurse maid for the back four when Ronaldinho or Michael Ballack are running at you, and another when Andorra, ranked 132 in the world, are in possession, but when you are the holding man you can only destroy what is being created in front of you. And Hargreaves was exemplary yesterday.

In the fifth minute it was his tackle on Marc Pujol that earned the possession that ultimately led to Peter Crouch giving England the lead; eight minutes later the South Stand burst into spontaneous applause as Hargreaves hustled Antonio Sivera off the ball. Again, several passes later, the ball was in the back of the Andorra net, this time courtesy of Gerrard. The credit was won by others, the initial work performed by the No 7.

That was Beckham's number and the one thing that England have not replaced since Golden Balls was discarded is a threat from dead-ball situations. Hargreaves did a passable impression, however, smacking a free-kick against a post in the 32nd minute.

He also thumped a shot of 30 yards against the post in the 64th minute as the Andorran threat, always hard to locate, disappeared completely and allowed him to advance into positions he rarely has the opportunity to take. It is a luxury he is unlikely to enjoy on Wednesday when Macedonia, surely, will prove a sterner test to his defensive qualities.

Those near misses apart, it was a match Hargreaves could reflect on with quiet satisfaction. You can understand the lure of Old Trafford; last night you could see why Old Trafford was drawn to him.

Quotes Of The Day: Who does the most running? Peter Crouch

Peter Crouch is phenomenal. He has an unbelievable record [10 goals]. No one is "undroppable" but when you are scoring goals at the rate he is, you leave him in the team. What I love about Peter Crouch is that he's a team player. You would expect the midfield players to do the most [running], but consistently he does the most of anyone on the pitch

Steve McClaren, the England coach, seems already to have found his 'David Beckham'

I was pleased for [Jermain] Defoe (pictured) too because he played well against Greece without getting a goal and deserved them [his two goals] today.

McClaren, on Crouch's strike partner

We changed formation and it is nice coming away having tried something like that. If we have to use it in the future, it means that we are prepared

John Terry, the England captain, on switching to three at the back

The key was getting the ball wide and keeping our discipline. Game in, game out, home or away, we have always got that discipline to fall back on. The players stayed focused and patient

McClaren, on the route to success

I'm pleased with the first two games. We have built up a kind of momentum and have been winning games with good football and good spirit

McClaren, looking ahead to the rest of the qualifying campaign

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