MACCA - LEFT SIDE OR LEFT HOME?
By Rupert Webster
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
McManaman hit the headlines across Europe in midweek as he netted Real's second goal in their 2-0 win over arch rivals Barcelona in the Champions League semi finals.
But in La Liga, he has been far from prolific in 2001-02, scoring just twice all season, while his Premiership rivals for a midfield berth such as David Beckham (11 goals), Paul Scholes (eight goals), Danny Murphy (five goals) and Trevor Sinclair (five goals) have all excelled.
However, with Beckham struggling for fitness, there are doubts as to whether England have enough creative options in midfield and that could lead to McManaman's inclusion.
So far this term, the talented midfielder has been accurate with a superb 83% of his passes and only Scholes with 86% can better that figure, while many midfield options including Steven Gerrard (73%) and Sinclair (71%) have far inferior records.
There is also a feeling that with his combination of pace, skill and willingness to take on the opposition single-handed, McManaman offers England the sort of option that no other player can provide. For Real this season, the 28-year-old has embarked on some 5.4 dribbles per game on average and none of Eriksson's players can better that figure.
In the Premiership, Sinclair has been the England midfielder most willing to take on opposition defenders, embarking on 5.3 dribbles per match. But other contenders such as Kieron Dyer (4.7) and even Michael Owen (4.3) have records which pale in comparison to McManaman's.
Despite his many successes and accolades at Real, McManaman still appears to have a reputation as an unproductive player, a throwback from his Liverpool days. But that perception is not altogether wrong as he has set up only one goal for a colleague this term, which is a poor return for a player in his position.
Back in England, Eriksson has far more effective players, with Beckham and Gerrard having created eight goals apiece and Sinclair (seven assists), Murphy (six assists) and Scholes (five assists) also having better records.
The fact that Eriksson has neglected to select McManaman for recent friendlies indicates that the Swedish coach knows what the Real midfielder has to offer. Whether that will be enough to merit a ticket to the World Cup is in the balance, but it appears that McManaman's skills and experience of playing at the highest level should merit a squad place.