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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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Pearce: England must play best players

England Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce has told the FA it must ensure the best players take part in age group tournaments and gain experience in order to increase the country's chances of winning trophies.

Pearce, whose side will be eliminated from the European Under-21 Championship - a tournament England have not won since 1984 - if they lose to Norway, said more needed to be done to prevent players from choosing not to represent their country.

The Under-21s lost their opening game of the tournament 1-0 to Italy.

He said English football's governing body should already have introduced compulsory call-ups to solve the problem of what he described as "players who do not want to give their summers up".

The coach, whose contract runs out in a month, said England needed to do more to increase their chances of winning international trophies at all levels.

He said he had no problem with England senior manager Roy Hodgson calling Under-21 players into his squad, but added that England needed to follow the example set by France, Spain and Germany of treating age group tournaments more seriously.

"If you bring your best players, you stand a chance of winning the tournament," he said. "If you don't bring your best players, you take your chance when you get there. That applies to every country in the world.

"I have had a conversation with the England senior manager about what players he wants. He has first dibs, and rightly so.

"Everyone who is left over is available to the under-21 squad. You then have to look at certain injuries - you have to accept that. Then there are one or two players who do not want to give their summers up to go and represent their country.

"I will tell you now what you need to do to win a tournament and be successful. It is exactly the same as the French, Spanish and Germans before us. They have all done this. You qualify with your best players. You take your best team to the tournament and you take your best players."

An FA study of 11 leading football nations revealed that only Spain surpass England when it comes to qualifying for tournaments from under-17 to senior level in the last decade - but Pearce said that there was another side to those statistics.

He said: "When you ask how many of our top 50 players [who are available] for the senior squad now who have got tournament experience before they get there, we finish second bottom.

"The statistics are there. It is whether you want to ignore them and think: 'It doesn't matter - we will just turn up and try to win a World Cup.' Or do you want to put building blocks in place?"

Pearce said Arsenal's Theo Walcott had played only five and a half tournament matches since being called up to Sven-Goran Eriksson's 2006 World Cup squad as a 16-year-old.

The former England captain added: "Since then, he could have gone to two World Cups, two European Championships, three European Under-21 Championships, two Under-20 World Cups and an Olympic Games.

"We have to address that so our brighter players, like the Oxlade-Chamberlains, can get tournament experience, playing time."

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