The final whistle went and Glenn Hoddle thumped the railing in front of him in frustration. Once again his plans had been dashed.
It was not just the sight of Paul Gascoigne being carried off on a stretcher 40 yards away which had provoked Hoddle's rare outburst. It was also the knowledge that Jamie Redknapp was lying in a hospital X-ray theatre just across Manchester. Had he known that the X-rays would reveal a fractured ankle, he would have been even more upset.
To compound Hoddle's problems even further, he announced yesterday that Tony Adams' lingering ankle injury, which kept him out of Saturday's game, makes his chances of playing in Chorzow only "60-40".
The injuries to Gascoigne and Redknapp were the most significant aspects of Saturday's undistinguished win. The performances of Rob Lee, Ian Wright, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes and Teddy Sheringham were plusses, as were the crowd and atmosphere at Old Trafford, but the injuries were much bigger minuses.
Gascoigne, who was crudely felled by Linda Buthelezei, had just completed a promising enough 90 minutes to ensure his participation in Poland on Saturday. Now, with his calf heavily bruised, he is a grave doubt, not just because of the injury but because he will lose some of his conditioning while he recovers. Hoddle was justifiably angry at the "callous" nature of the 92nd-minute foul.
He was more sanguine about the cause of Redknapp's ankle injury, a 50- 50 tackle, but no less frustrated. It is not just that the injury makes his "clear-the-air" meeting with Roy Evans, the Liverpool coach, even more difficult, it is that Redknapp was to play an important role in the summer.
He was unlikely to play against Poland but, in the Tournoi de France, Hoddle wanted to experiment with the Liverpool midfielder as sweeper.
Ever since he took the job of national coach Hoddle has been looking for an English Matthias Sammer. He is clearly not convinced about Gareth Southgate, while Adams is too long in the tooth and Sol Campbell is not comfortable enough on the ball.
"We haven't anyone yet but I can see Jamie playing in there," said Hoddle. "He is someone who, given a little extra time on the ball in that part of the pitch, could do it.
"There are options from there. You can come forward into space at the right time and make the difference as Gareth [Southgate] did a couple of times in the second half. Then there are times in that part of the pitch when a change of play is on but you need to be able to see the 60- yard pass and the 20-yard pass and be able to play them.
"It is difficult because he does not do it for his club, we can't just throw him in, it would be a risk. The problem is defensively. It is not so much tackling as defensive awareness. It is easier to defend as the last line than in midfield, you can pick things off. There are a few one- on-ones but most of the time you have more time. But you need to acclimatise.
"I have spoken to him and he was quite surprised. He thought about it and thinks he can do the passing, it is just the defending. Sammer does it for his club and fits in an international team which have done it for years.
"If I had a pre-season with him I would have no doubt he could do it, but I have not got that time. He is not playing there for his club - I've not even spoken to Roy about it, that sort of thing is always difficult.
"It can only be done in friendlies. I have said to Jamie that if we had the old rule allowing over-age players in the under-21s he would have had five or six games by now in that position. As it is we, were hoping to play him there in France."
Hoddle's options are now limited. There are few friendlies next season, which could mean forgetting the idea until after the World Cup.
"There is no-one at the moment who can play that position in the league," he added. "Sol Campbell is a tremendous defender and adequate on the ball, but he is not someone who would come out and make a difference. His passing ability is good but it is simple passes."
Redknapp, as before, also worked well with Gascoigne in midfield. With Rob Lee working hard and getting forward off the ball, the trio had a nice balance. Lee may have played himself into next week's game ahead of David Batty, who was awful when he came on, reminding one of all his limitations. His first touch gave away the ball, his second a foul.
And Gascoigne? "He was spot on today with his performance," said Hoddle. "He did some very positive things, created things in the last third, and played very sensibly. I told him we did not need a spectacular performance.
"He lasted the 90 minutes and looked in good shape. He got stronger as he went on. In a way that counted against us. I had planned to take him off as fatigue can lead to pulled muscles and I thought he'd tire, but he did not so we left him on. Then he was injured."
What with that injury and Redknapp's, perhaps the game should not have been played? No, said Hoddle with justification. "Paul would have had no chance of starting against Poland without this game."
Besides, it was also good experience for Phil Neville, who took full advantage of Doctor Khumalo's impression of David Ginola's lazy wing-back routine, and Scholes, who made an impressive debut as substitute.
Neville and Lee were both prominent in the early stages and combined for Sheringham's cross for Lee to put England ahead after 20 minutes. They should have been well clear by the time defensive hesitation, and John Moshoeu's skill, created an equaliser for Phil Masinga.
Gascoigne's free-kick and Scholes' clever flick set up Wright for the winner though he needed a helping hand - one of his own. The game was effectively over but not, unfortunately, the drama.
Goals: Lee (20) 1-0; Masinga (43) 1-1; Wright (75) 2-1.
ENGLAND (3-5-2): Martyn (Leeds United); Keown (Arsenal), Southgate (Aston Villa), Pearce (Nottingham Forest); P Neville (Manchester United), Lee (Newcastle United), Redknapp (Liverpool), Gascoigne (Rangers), Le Saux (Blackburn Rovers); Sheringham (Tottenham); Wright (Arsenal). Substitutes: Batty (Newcastle United) for Redknapp, 56; Scholes (Manchester United) for Sheringham, 63; Beckham (Manchester United) for Le Saux, 67; Butt (Manchester United) for Lee, 79); Campbell (Tottenham Hotspur) for Gascoigne , 90.
SOUTH AFRICA (3-5-2): Arendse (Cape Town Spurs); Tovey (Kaizer Chiefs), Fish (Lazio), Radebe (Leeds United); Motaung (Tenerife), Tinkler (Cagliari), Moshoeu (Kocaelispor, Turkey), Moeti (Orlando Pirates), Khumalo (Columbus Crew, US); Augustine (Linzer ASK, Austria), Masinga (Salernitana, Italy). Substitutes: Sikhosana (Orlando Pirates) for Augustine, 54; Mkhalele (Orlando Pirates) for Khumalo, 76; Buthelezei (Mamelodi Sundowns) for Tinkler, 88; Bartlett (Colorado Rapids, US) for Masinga, 88.
Referee: A Frisk (Sweden). Bookings: South Africa: Tovey, Buthelezei.
Man of the match: Lee. Attendance: 52,676.Reuse content