There was venom in Old Trafford's farewell to England last night but while the chorus of complaints that greeted defeat by Spain spoke of a profound disillusionment with Steve McClaren, the man himself insisted the tide of public opinion has not turned irrevocably against his reign as international manager.
Seven games into his England career and the sounds, and the statistics, would dispute McClaren's view. Andres Iniesta's sublime strike condemned McClaren to a second defeat in his past four international fixtures, a sequence that also includes no wins, just one goal scored, a first home loss since November 2003 and the loosening of qualification prospects for the 2008 European Championship. Now, with crucial qualifying games away to Israel and Andorra awaiting next month, confidence has taken a pummelling.
Though McClaren accepted the crowd's right to make frustration known and Gary Neville insisted that it was an inevitable accompaniment to any England defeat - "the fans are entitled to say what they want. I play for a club where they are more accommodating but with England it is always the same. You lose, you get booed," the Manchester United defender said - the manager refuted the suggestion the jeers were reserved exclusively for him.
"I didn't hear any of that after the [Dutch] game," he said. "But we lost, it was at Old Trafford, and the expectations were there. I can understand their reaction. You don't like to lose football matches and especially the last one at Old Trafford where we have enjoyed a decent record. We knew it would be a hard game but we didn't want to go out on a low like this. It is a huge disappointment."
McClaren did not attempt to disguise the paucity of England's performance, however, and indicated that the international careers of certain players would suffer despite the fixture's friendly status. He said: "Nobody is blind to the fact we lacked quality in the final third. We lacked the final cross, the final pass and the finishing that wins games. The final ball consistently let us down and that is key at any level of football, and we lost to a very good goal."
Those criticisms appeared to encapsulate the display of Shaun Wright-Phillips, and the England manager added: "He started quite brightly, but there were a few performances out there that were not up to their usual standards and that was the disappointing aspect of tonight. That will be made clear to them."
McClaren confirmed that the captain Steven Gerrard was withdrawn after 45 minutes on the understanding of Liverpool, after the midfielder had suffered a slight injury problem in the Merseyside derby on Saturday, and cited the number of influential absentees as an explanation for England's sorry night.
"We came into this game with a different scenario to the [Dutch] game, we had two days to prepare and there has been a lot of disruption with people coming and going. That is not an excuse but it is a reason. There were six or seven players missing who would be in the starting line-up. At times we played good football and created good chances but tonight was a building block towards the future in which we could look at individuals such as Foster, Woodgate and Dyer."
He added: "I don't feel the players have let me down. The attitude and effort was there but not the quality, especially in the final third. You can't give the ball away as often as we did against a team like Spain."Reuse content