Roy Hodgson has warned Manchester United's England players that their poor form this season is likely to cost them a World Cup place.
United, who suffered their seventh home League defeat this season when they lost 1-0 to lowly Sunderland yesterday, have been the main provider of England internationals for many years. But Liverpool's success is likely to mean Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling pushing Danny Welbeck out of the team, and Jordan Henderson's resurgent form leaving no room for Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley in the squad.
Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, despite poor campaigns, may still make the squad for Brazil, but only because Tottenham right-back Kyle Walker is expected to be ruled out through injury and both can provide back-up to another Liverpool player, Glen Johnson, in that position.
"Manchester United are one of the few teams that have had a lot of English players," said Hodgson, "but football players have to accept unfortunately their England careers are tied up with their club careers. If it's not going well in their clubs, and it's not going well for them in their clubs, and other players are doing extremely well in their clubs, it does put your position as a national team player under some sort of threat.
"I'm pretty certain that the Manchester United players will understand that – that there's no god-given right that, because they've played in a few games up to now, they'll play all the games in the future. It's up to me to pick who the best players for the job are at any given moment. Now that doesn't mean to say you'll choose a player for the national team every time he scores. But it does mean you are judging, over a relatively short period, who's the best man for the job. Who's the one doing best at this moment? Who's in the best form?
"Often at the level we're talking about there's not light years between players; it's not like in a club team where someone is the best player and [his rival] is an ordinary player. I'm choosing players who are on a fairly even level."
The exception is Wayne Rooney, who could be the only United player in England's team for their World Cup opener against Italy in Manaus on 14 June. When England concluded their qualifying campaign, against Poland in September, four started: Rooney, Carrick, Welbeck and Smalling.
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