United's World Cup 2022 links: Group B
There are United connections throughout the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and today we're exploring the Reds' relationship with the countries that make up Group B...
CURRENT REDS IN THIS GROUP
While there are none of our players in the ranks of Iran, USA or Wales, United are – as ever – well represented in England’s World Cup squad, with Marcus Rashford appearing at his second successive World Cup, Harry Maguire registering his first as a Red and Luke Shaw returning to the finals after becoming the youngest player at the 2014 tournament in Brazil.
The trio maintain a proud Old Trafford tradition of having at least one player in the Three Lions’ squad at every single edition of the tournament since England’s first entry back in 1950.
Ryan Giggs, who managed Wales until their qualifying campaign and provided interim management at Old Trafford in 2014, is the obvious link between United and Cymru. The winger, who made more appearances and won more trophies than any other player in Reds history, gathered 66 international caps and scored 12 times for his country.
Giggs is far from the only Welshman with United links, however – current squad member Charlie Savage enjoyed his first Under-21s call-up in September and is on track to join Robert Page’s squad in the future, while historically the 49-strong list of Welsh first-teamers at Old Trafford includes Billy Meredith, Mark Hughes and Clayton Blackmore.
Daniel James, who will be in Qatar, scored for Fulham against his former side last weekend, while one of the Reds’ most revered coaching figures, Jimmy Murphy, also helmed Wales at the 1958 World Cup, mere weeks after guiding the Reds through the immediate aftermath of the Munich Air Disaster.
Murphy was assistant manager under Sir Matt Busby, while Carlos Queiroz later occupied the same role as Sir Alex Ferguson’s right-hand man during two stints at Old Trafford. The Portuguese is now back for a second spell as Iran’s head coach and will be looking to emboss his legendary status with the AFC dark horses.
Of the four American players to pull on a United shirt at first-team level, Tim Howard is the only Red to represent USA at a World Cup, having been an unused back-up to Kasey Keller in Bruce Arena’s squad for the 2006 tournament.
OTHER UNITED LINKS
European draws down the years have handed the Reds a clutch of low-mileage jaunts, with the exception being the outstanding example of an all-English tie: the 2008 Champions League final win over Chelsea in Moscow.
United conquered Arsenal in the following term’s semi-final, and Chelsea again in 2010/11’s tense quarter-final, but it was fellow Londoners Spurs who had long before provided the Reds’ first English opposition in Europe, in 1963’s captivating European Cup Winners’ Cup double-header, which United edged 4-3 on aggregate.
The shortest-ever continental jaunts for the Reds came in the Fairs Cup, latterly known as the Europa League, where Everton were the opponents in 1965 and Liverpool in 2016.
Only slightly further afield, the road to glory in the 1991 European Cup Winners’ Cup included a second-round tie with Wrexham, who were dispatched 5-0 on aggregate.
The Robins are one of three Welsh teams to also lock horns with the Reds domestically, alongside Swansea City and, most recently, Cardiff City.
While the Reds have never played in Iran or met Iranian club sides, USA is a far more familiar destination, providing the venue for post and pre-season tours down the years since the 1950s, including the most recent jaunt in 2018.
UNITED'S SUPPORT IN THESE COUNTRIES
Unsurprisingly, Group B accounts for a large portion of United’s 277 official supporters’ clubs, with 65 spread across England and a further six over the Welsh border.
While Iran is yet to spawn an official branch, the Reds’ global reach is well illustrated by the 17 outposts dotted around USA, which has also played host to a variety of other events to celebrate the club.
In February 2014, the Reds were wrapped up in Hollywood glamour, taking the Premier League trophy to California on tour and parading it at a red-carpet event, while the club’s ever-popular #ILOVEUNITED events have been a smash hit Stateside, packing out venues in Dallas, New York City and, earlier this year, Miami, with those events also punctuated by an online virtual gathering in 2021.
GROUP B FIXTURES
MONDAY 21 NOVEMBER
England v Iran (13:00 GMT)
USA v Wales
FRIDAY 25 NOVEMBER
Wales v Iran (10:00 GMT)
England v USA
TUESDAY 29 NOVEMBER
Wales v England
Iran v USA
Kick-off times are 19:00 GMT unless stated.