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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Aug 16, 2006

McClaren heaps praise on Hargreaves

Steve McClaren saluted Owen Hargreaves as his standard bearer after starting his England reign with a thumping 4-0 win over Greece at Old Trafford.

New captain John Terry scored the first with a header while Frank Lampard and two from Liverpool striker Peter Crouch settled the match before half-time.

But it was Hargreaves who walked off with the man-of-the-match award after a superb midfield performance in the holding role in which he impressed in the World Cup.

McClaren said: 'We dominated the midfield area. We've got great balance in there. Owen Hargreaves was phenomenal. He set the standard for the others to follow.

'Not just his attitude but his whole game. You saw the likes of (Steven) Gerrard and (Frank) Lampard follow that example and produce performances we were all delighted about.'

McClaren also admitted he was delighted with the manner in which England responded to his call for pace and passion and a return to the English style of play.

But he insisted the players must produce such displays consistently.

He said: 'We couldn't wait for the game to start. We had the players for three days and they had to take in a lot of information.

'They've taken it on board and delivered a performance, especially in that first half, that we now need to consistently produce. That's the key word. They've set the standard.

'We got a lot of things out of it. The key was controlling the game. At this level you have to keep the ball. That was pleasing. We were patient. We didn't force things. We allowed the players to get into positions where we could hurt the opposition.

'Possession is key. It doesn't win you football matches but it controls you the game. We got great movement.'

It was the perfect confidence-booster before England take on Andorra and Macedonia in the European Championship qualifiers next month.

And though the crowd at just more than 45,000 was some 30,000 less than Old Trafford's capacity McClaren was thrilled with the the support.

He said: 'This is why we are here, for the crowd. People might be disappointed with the crowd but that is the highest one you'll get in August and the highest one you'll get in Europe.

'It just shows the support England have got. It's just phenomenal. We saw that in the World Cup and we have to produce performances for them and then they will respond.'

And on his own feelings on leading out England for the first time after five years at the shoulder of Sven-Goran Eriksson he added:

'I am very proud. I'm in a very privileged position. I've been part of the set-up for a while now but to lead it is different, exciting and challenging. We have a big challenge ahead and have to produce performances like that consistently.

'To win football matches you have to attack but we have to attack in the right times. Tonight we made the right decisions at the right time. In possession we looked like a team which was cohesive and works together. It bodes well.'