Ken Jones: Doubts linger, but no team in Europe can boast Eriksson's riches

Some colleagues in this dubious trade, have been, understandably, more guarded. Their reaction sprang not from tribal prejudice but the thought that while England put in a vastly improved performance - raising their energy level, their confidence growing - can Sven Goran Eriksson be relied upon to move things even further forward? Eriksson, who claims to be deaf to criticism, is entitled to argue that qualifying England for the World Cup finals in Germany, had been his main objective. The recent past, however, cannot be entirely washed away by the defeat of a Polish team who, on the evidence of their efforts at Old Trafford, will struggle to get beyond the group stage in next year's tournament.

Most of the criticism levelled at Eriksson has been valid. His hands came off the wheel when England surrendered to Brazil in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 2002. In Euro 2004 he was equally culpable. Recent events - the 1-0 loss to Northern Ireland, who struggle to get a team together, and the lack of inspiration against Austria last Saturday - were fresh reasons to consider again the possibility that his bland personality was not in the team's best interests.

I put this to the former Chelsea and Manchester United manager Dave Sexton, who was on Eriksson's staff until his retirement earlier this year. "Sven is so calm that it would be easy for people to get the wrong impression," Sexton said. "He has made mistakes, but which manager hasn't? When you are dealing with big players, some of the biggest in the world, shouting doesn't work. But Sven can be as firm as anyone. One of the things that stood out on Wednesday was the effect of that."

Eriksson's relations with the media, particularly with people in the employ of newspapers, have always been, and probably will remain, subject to emotional disturbance, much depending on how England go about their work in the five friendlies scheduled before setting up camp in the Bavarian mountains next May. Anyway, this week has brought a renewal of belief. The England fans, some of whom shouted "Sack the Swede" following the defeat in Belfast, were in buoyant mood at Old Trafford.

In this space last week, I said England will win the World Cup. Plenty happened at Old Trafford to justify that opinion. Eriksson has been charged with confusing his men but here, at last, there was a clarity of purpose. Gone was the lethargy evident in Copenhagen, Cardiff and Belfast. Joe Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips were busily effective on the flanks. Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard sped into open space and moved the ball quickly. England pressed the ball so well that the Poles were restricted to isolated attacks.

Look elsewhere in Europe and you won't find a team so blessed with talent as England, no team capable of reaching the heights now within reach of Eriksson's assembly. The hosts Germany are rebuilding. Spain are still struggling to qualify. Greece, the Euro 2004 champions failed to reach the finals on Wednesday. France haven't had an easy passage to Germany.

I'm not much interested in what Eriksson (£4.2m a year) or any other sportsperson earns. A good reporter can find out the salary of any professional athlete and the last few years have given us a frenzy of money stories on sports pages. Stock market tables disguised as sports stories.

I am interested in how players and managers perform. If the criticism levelled at Eriksson before this week's match was deserved, often it overlooked the sorry state of the England team before he took over four and a half years ago. His biggest blessing has been the emergence of Rooney. Still short of his 20th birthday, he can think confidently of himself as one of the world's leading players. "Sensational," the BBC pundit Alan Hansen said of him.

Jack Charlton once said of the great John Charles that he won matches on his own. Rooney falls into that category: thrusting past defenders, twisting, turning, feinting, shooting, his awareness quite exceptional. No team in the world will be safe from him.

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week