How England should line up vs Iran in World Cup fixture with Manchester United and Man City players

England play Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium in their opening World Cup group fixture on Monday afternoon.

Manchester United and Manchester City have multiple players in the 26-man squad and both clubs could have representatives starting in the opening game. England made the World Cup semi-final in 2018 and they’ll want to make the next step this winter.

United’s Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire and Marcus Rashford have been included in the squad, while Kyle Walker, John Stones, Kalvin Phillips, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden are the Blues’ representatives in Qatar.

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Gareth Southgate’s squad is heavily influenced by players from the Manchester clubs, with eight in the squad in total.

Here’s how our MEN writers think England should start.

Tyrone Marshall

In theory, this is England’s easiest game in the group but they might find it difficult to break Iran down. Under Carlos Quieroz they are a very defensive team and will defend in a low block and make life difficult.

For that reason I’d lean towards picking a more attacking team, while also being able to rest some players. Group games come around quicker in this tournament than usual in a World Cup so keeping some players fresh might be important. Alexander-Arnold’s delivery and creativity should give him the right-back slot ahead of Trippier for this game, with Stones, Maguire and Shaw completing the defence. This should be a good game for Maguire to ease himself in and find his usual England form.

Rice and Bellingham looks a good midfield partnership. The latter has played a more attacking role for Borussia Dortmund this season and if he can free the shackles for England this could be a breakthrough tournament for him. Foden will end up out wide during the tournament but in this fixture, playing him in a midfield three is worth a shot.

That would allow an extra attacker on the pitch. Saka has been impressive for England and can start on the right and Rashford’s goal threat makes him my choice on the left. Kane leads the line.

Tyrone's England line-up
Tyrone’s England line-up

Rich Fay

As an outsider to the England-sphere, I am still astounded by how talented the team is all around. International football requires an element of form and favouritism from the manager, and it makes for an interesting dilemma.

Pope is the in-form goalkeeper heading into the tournament, and Trippier the best right-back. Yet there is perhaps hypocrisy that Maguire keeps his place given his poor club form, though it is understandable why Southgate backs him.

Rice and Bellingham would start for most sides in the world and will be the backbone to any success England have. Maddison is not only the man in form for the attacking midfield role but also has a set-piece prowess that makes him a priceless asset.

Kane is the only option through the middle, and Rashford has been in good form from the left. Saka starts if fit, with Foden the ideal super sub in matches where he is needed.

The side Rich thinks should face Iran
The side Rich thinks should face Iran

Joe Bray

This is the closest England get to a warm-up game, even with three points at stake, so I’d use the selection to rest some key players and try some others out. With no time to prepare, in-form players should be preferred and there’s no need for a back five against Iran. Harry Maguire can try to play his way into form, as can Trent Alexander-Arnold, with Kyle Walker not ready yet and no need to play Keiran Trippier.

There aren’t many options other than Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham in midfield, and they could do with as many minutes as possible to build their partnership. Then I’d play Phil Foden and Marcus Rashford on the wings as the Manchester pair are playing well and can provide some creativity from out wide.

Joe has chose his starting XI
Joe has chose his starting XI

Then I’d opt for Jack Grealish and give him a licence to be creative through the middle. He’ll link well with Foden and Kane, and showed against Chelsea recently what he can offer with the shackles off. He’s England’s number seven, and Raheem Sterling isn’t at his best, so should get the chance to keep his place going further into the tournament.

Steven Railston

It would almost be criminal to start with a back five against Iran, who are hardly known as an international football powerhouse. England have an incredibly talented squad and Southgate needs to reserve that approach until the knockout stage, surely.

I’d have Stones and Maguire in the centre of defence and the inclusion of the latter might be controversial, but he’s reserved his best football for England and he’s always performed for Southgate. Maguire was outstanding in Russia in 2018 and he was named in the Team of the Tournament for Euro 2020, so I’m expecting another big tournament from him in Qatar.

Steven's line-up for England's first World Cup game
Steven’s line-up for England’s first World Cup game

In midfield, there are doubts about Maddison’s fitness and a three-man midfield of Rice, Bellingham and Mount seems the robust choice. Maddison is a brilliant option to eventually have from the bench and the same can be said about Grealish.

Saka and Foden have been in sparkling form in the Premier League and they should start on either side of Kane. It feels harsh to leave Sterling out, considering he was so talismanic at Euro 2020, but I feel Saka and Foden have done enough.