In case you thought you were suffering from a seriously nauseating case of déjà vu, fear not. Your eyes are not deceiving you - Phil Neville is indeed winning trophies once again, quietly conquering the world.
He and his pride of Lionesses have just completed the most ideal preparation for this summer’s World Cup, by outshining three of the top ten ranked sides in the world to lift the SheBelieves Cup.
The round-robin competition allowed the waistcoat-wearing copycat to see how the Lionesses fare under test conditions with even better results than the emissions output of a 2018 plate Volkswagen.
Two wins against Japan and Brazil and a (bitterly unlucky) draw against USA will have the opposition quivering in their boots come June. What’s even more heartening is the fact that England were a long way from their best but with three months until the World Cup, that was always expected.
Beth Mead scores an absolute worldie in England's opener.
Neville said himself he didn’t expect to win this competition, this was just a chance to experiment. Even heading into the final winner-takes-all clash against Japan, there was not even the slightest temptation to play it safe. Eight changes were made to the side that drew 2-2 with the USA previously which is testament to England’s strength in depth and ultimately their World Cup credentials.
The 3-0 whitewashing of the sushi-munchers was no small matter. The 2011 world champions have been England’s kryptonite in recent years, brutally booting them out of the 2015 edition with an injury-time winner. Considering they do battle once again at this summer’s competition in final group game in Nice this can be chalked up as some psychological brownie points here.
Neville Minor has more than a few headaches to remedy when it comes to dishing out plane tickets for France. Before this tournament, there were considerable question marks over the Lionesses goal scoring potential but that seems laughable now - they notched seven goals in total from six different scorers.
But for all the gushing positivity, it would be erroneous to pretend this side is not without their faults. A breeze through this competition should not mask a few significant shortcomings that will need addressing between now and the summer. Most pressingly, a rank inability to keep possession frequently gifted golden opportunities. Against more trigger-happy opposition, they would have conceded dozens.
There’s also a danger this SheBelieves campaign will have inflated more than a few egos. Tournament organisers pissed a few people off when Japan and Brazil were invited to the party, because it meant Germany and France were chucked onto the scrapheap. Although they might not be favourites in France, England now have a target painted on their backs.
They won’t lack firepower come the summer as long as goal-getters Parris, Mead and White can keep their powder dry for the remainder of the season. With Chelsea’s Millie Bright still side-lined, Houghton and McManus need to get some game time as a defensive pairing at Man City and practice looking after the ball better. Providing the midfield magicians Kirby, Carney and Walsh remain fit as a fiddle, the Lionesses should be brimming with confidence.