Young given nod to tackle Giggs as Beckham prepares for anchor role

Young, 26, only made his debut for England this summer when he was a late call-up to the tour of the United States and even then he played a total of just 18 minutes during two friendly matches as a substitute against the host nation and Colombia. With the England regular Gary Neville injured, it had been widely anticipated that his brother Phil would step into the vacant role at right-back.

However, Young has been selected as part of the first team in training over the last two days and is understood to have risen to the task impressively. Eriksson will be well aware that despite Phil Neville's excellent international credentials, the 28-year-old has reinvented himself as a central midfielder, which is where he has played this season for his new club Everton.

Young's inclusion will mean a new-look back four at the Millennium Stadium, and against Northern Ireland in Belfast on Wednesday, that includes Jamie Carragher in for the injured John Terry and the Charlton man making his full debut. Young has been a crucial figure in Charlton's unbeaten start to the Premiership season, captaining the side in all three games, and now has the chance to challenge for a place in the World Cup squad next summer.

Eriksson is undoubtedly on the lookout for an understudy to Gary Neville after Glen Johnson's poor performance as a second-half substitute in the 4-1 defeat by Denmark in Copenhagen last month. A former England Under-21 international, Young joined Charlton from Tottenham Hotspur in 2001 for a fee that rose to £4m.

In the centre of the pitch, Eriksson is ready to pick an England formation that plays in the style of Jose Mourinho's Chelsea, with three of the Premiership champions' midfielders making up a new-look midfield that supports lone striker Wayne Rooney with two wingers.

As reported in The Independent yesterday, the 4-5-1 system is now almost certain to be deployed tomorrow after the team trained extensively in that shape at Arsenal's London Colney headquarters. Joe Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips were used in exactly the same roles as they fill for their club side.

Yesterday, Eriksson used a 4-3-2-1 variation on the formation with captain David Beckham at the centre of the trio in front of the defence, Frank Lampard to his left and Steven Gerrard operating to the right. Ahead of that three were Wright-Phillips and Cole, who were on the right and left respectively, while they were behind Rooney, who will play alone in attack with Michael Owen suspended.

While training was dominated yesterday by the new system, it is also likely to affect the way in which Beckham is deployed in the England team in the long term. When Owen returns for the World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland, there is every likelihood that England will revert to the 4-4-2 system, with the Newcastle United striker alongside Rooney. Until then, Beckham has a new role.

If, in this new Chelsea-style midfield, Gerrard fulfils the Eidur Gudjohnsen role alongside Lampard, then Beckham will be, without doubt, the Claude Makelele of the team. The French international is the unspectacular ball-winner in the Chelsea team who famously rarely advances into the final third of the pitch and restricts himself to short, simple passes.

It is a role Beckham is unlikely to accept without a few adaptations of his own, principally that he will still wish to use his much longer range of passing. However, that he is prepared to accept a job doing the hard work in front of the back four, one he has undertaken for Real Madrid before, reveals something about the way he sees his career developing now that he has enjoyed his 30th birthday.

The plan was first suggested by the three senior players - Beckham, Lampard and Gerrard - at the behest of Eriksson, who called a meeting with them on Tuesday evening.

The consensus style management of the England coach has always allowed his players to have a say in the selection of his side, although he will come out strongly against suggestions that he was pushed into it at a press conference in Cardiff today.

The five-man midfield, and the inclusion of orthodox right-back Young, is another major tactical departure for Eriksson and it comes against a Wales team that has little in the way of recognised internationals in its midfield.

The Welsh trio facing Gerrard, Beckham and Lampard are likely to be Sunderland's Carl Robinson, Carl Fletcher of West Ham and Simon Davies of Everton.

While all three have shown great promise as potential international players, there is limited choice in terms of wing-backs for manager John Toshack if he chooses to play Giggs up front behind John Hartson and a midfield of five.

In that scenario, his wing-backs will be chosen from Robert Earnshaw of West Bromwich Albion, Swansea's Sam Ricketts and Richard Duffy, who is on loan to Coventry from Portsmouth.

Although Young was not named in the squad against Denmark last month, the two games against Wales and Northern Ireland are Eriksson's best opportunities to give him a start should Gary Neville not recover in time for the final two tricky World Cup qualifiers against Austria and Poland at Old Trafford next month.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments