There was a veiled plea to Fabio Capello from Sir Alex Ferguson yesterday to spare Wayne Rooney too many exertions in the international break ahead.
But it is one of the England manager's defenders, Wes Brown, who may have most cause for concern as he faces being eclipsed at Old Trafford by Manchester United's new star.
Ferguson's appraisal of the performance in Denmark on Tuesday of right-back Rafael da Silva – one of the Brazilian twins from Fulminese – was justifiably full of praise. "The boy has an understanding of the game and a talent, that's the reason," Ferguson said, when asked why Rafael had been selected ahead of Wes Brown who struggled at Anfield and was dropped at Stamford Bridge. "We know Wes can do it," Ferguson added. "He has been here for 14 years. But it was there for all to see [in Rafael]. He's an attacking player, positive with great belief."
Ferguson might resist playing Rafael in the attritional environment United will find at Blackburn today. With Gary Neville struggling again that might mean another chance for Brown to prove something. But the Brazilian's speed and several speculative efforts in Aalborg gives United on the right flank what Patrice Evra has delivered so well on the left.
Rooney will be missing today but Ferguson is happy for him to depart on England duty, hoping that if he plays when England host Kazakhstan a week today he might be spared further work on the journey to Belarus four days later. "It's not an issue with me. That rests with Fabio," Ferguson said.