United's World Cup 2022 links: Group D

Tuesday 22 November 2022 09:30

Our daily look into each of the eight groups at the World Cup continues, as we analyse Mancheser United's connections with the countries that form Group D: France, Denmark, Australia and Tunisia...

Yes. In fact, only Australia will not have a Red in their ranks in Group D. Raphael Varane (France), Christian Eriksen (Denmark) and Hannibal (Tunisia) are in the three other squads that will contest the group.

The first game could see Eriksen and Hannibal go mano a mano in midfield, when Denmark meet Tunisia in Al Rayyan today (Tuesday 22 November, 13:00 GMT).

Meanwhile, Varane has not played since going down injured at Stamford Bridge last month, but France coach Didier Deschamps has said the United centre-back is now fit again and available for France’s opener against Australia in Al Wakrah this evening (Tuesday, 19:00 GMT). 

Is Varane winning his fitness battle?


Raphael was seen working intently during France’s first session in Qatar, as they prepare for their World Cup opener.


Well, where to start? France, in particular, have supplied many stars to United over the years, ranging from the epoch-defining Eric Cantona to defender William Prunier, who played just twice during a trial spell at the club in 1995/1996. Three Les Bleus World Cup winners have played for the Reds – Fabien Barthez, Laurent Blanc and Paul Pogba – while Patrice Evra, Louis Saha and Mikael Silvestre were popular French players who contributed to many of our title wins. Then there’s David Bellion, Gabriel Obertan and Morgan Schneiderlin. And let’s not forget Anthony Martial, of course, who could easily have been selected for this World Cup if not for his recent injury troubles.

We’ve been blessed with one Australian Red – goalkeeper Mark Bosnich, who joined the club as a youngster in 1989, and played three first-team matches in 1990 and 1991. He then rejoined the club in the wake of Peter Schmeichel’s departure, playing 35 times in the 1999/00 season.
And it’s Schmeichel we must come to first in any conversation about United and Denmark. Arguably the club’s greatest goalkeeper of all time, he joined from Swedish club Brondby in 1991, and went on to make 398 appearances, lifting countless trophies. His final game was, of course, the 1999 Champions League final, where we became the first (and to date, only) English club to complete the Treble.

There have been several other Danish Reds at Old Trafford, starting with the much-loved Jesper Olsen (1984-89). Then there was John Sivebaek, who scored United’s first goal under Sir Alex Ferguson in November 1986. Since that trio, we’ve also seen Mads Timm, Anders Lindegaard and now Eriksen play for the first team.

To date, Hannibal is our only Tunisian Red. The young Academy midfielder made his maiden first-team bow at Molineux in May 2021, and is currently on loan with Championship side Birmingham City.
Eriksen's favourite World Cup goal Video

Eriksen's favourite World Cup goal

We asked Christian Eriksen to name his favourite World Cup goal and his answer caught us by surprise...


Australia has been one of our most frequent destinations for summer tours, with United travelling Down Under as recently as this July, when we played games in Melbourne and Perth. Our first trip to the country came in 1967, when we played matches in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Newcastle, Adelaide and Perth. The country also hosted our first games after the famous Treble season when, in Sir Alex Ferguson's absence, a squad led by assistant manager Steve McClaren - currently back at the club as part of Erik ten Hag's staff - played twice at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground. A few months later, in January 2000, we also met Australian opponents in a competitive game for the first and only time in our history, beating South Melbourne 2-0 in the inaugural FIFA World Club Championship in Brazil.

We’ve yet to encounter a Tunisian team, but we have faced sides from Denmark and France on many occasions in UEFA competitions. The Treble season saw us drawn in the same group as Schmeichel’s old club, Brondby, who we beat 6-2 away and 5-1 at home. And in subsequent years we have played Copenhagen, Aalborg and Midtjylland too – the latter were the opposition when Marcus Rashford dramatically announced himself at senior level, with two Europa League goals on his United debut in 2016.

The Reds have played against 10 different French clubs, meanwhile, dating back to a European Cup match against Strasbourg in 1965. There have been several memorable matches in France, from our 2-0 win in Montpellier en route to success in the 1991 European Cup Winners’ Cup, to Marcus Rashford’s dramatic late winner in the Parc des Princes in 2019, when we overturned Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-0 first-leg advantage to reach the Champions League quarter-finals. Who else have we played? Saint Etienne, Monaco, Marseille, Bordeaux, Lille, Nantes and Lyon.
Which two countries will progress from Group D?poll

Which two countries will progress from Group D?

The Reds have strong fan bases in all four countries. Australia has a large ex-pat community, and currently has three official supporters’ clubs in Brisbane, New South Wales and Perth, while Melbourne is another stronghold.

Manchester United Supporters Club Scandinavia reached its 40th anniversary in 2021, and held a belated, post-Covid party to celebrate before our pre-season friendly against Atletico Madrid in Oslo this summer. Covering Denmark as well as Norway and Sweden, it is the biggest United supporters’ club in the world, with over 40,000 paid-up members.

France and Tunisia also have official supporters’ clubs, with the former’s ‘Frogs, Cheese and Wine – and United all the time’ banner regularly popping up at Euro aways.

Tuesday 22 November
Denmark v Tunisia (13:00 GMT)
France v Australia (19:00 GMT)

Saturday 26 November
Tunisia v Australia (10:00 GMT)
France v Denmark (16:00 GMT)

Wednesday 30 November
Tunisia v France (15:00 GMT)
Australia v Denmark (15:00 GMT)