MARK Hughes' reign as Wales' manager, which at times has thrilled and threatened to send the nation to the dizzy heights of a major championship, is in danger of ending in a whimper.

Wales have not won a competitive match for 19 months, and with Hughes signing off as boss after Poland's visit to the Millennium Stadium on Wednesday, there is a real danger that he will be leaving behind a side on the slide and the World Cup finals out of reach.

On Friday Hughes peddled lines about pride and passion and "grabbing the moment", but none of these inherent Welsh virtues were on show at Old Trafford on Saturday as England breezed past them without having to shift into second gear.

This was supposed to be a fiercely contested derby match, but was summed up in the post- match Press conference when England boss Sven Goran Eriksson said: "It was not an angry match, with no bad tackles."

Tell us about it, Sven.

Welsh fans at Old Trafford

Lacklustre does not even begin to sum up Wales' performance in the Theatre of Dreams. Wales have now got to beat Poland (yet another 'must-win' game) but how this squad recovers from a total pasting remains to be seen.

Two-nil flattered the Welsh and comes hot on the heels of shockers against Azerbaijan and Northern Ireland.

Mark Hughes has got to shoulder a fair portion of the blame.

His 4-5-1 formation worked a treat for the first half of the Euro 2004 qualifiers, but was soon found out and countered with embarrassing ease in the last year.

John Harston on his own up front is no longer a viable option. He is beyond his best and even admits himself that he has not fully recovered from serious injuries.

This campaign would have been ideal to roll out a new formation and new ideas. Craig Bellamy, fully fit and in form, has got to play up front and not on the wing, where he is barely a nuisance.

Robert Earnshaw, fresh from a move to the Premiership, and the burden of carrying a mediocre Cardiff side lifted, should partner him.

Hughes has been criticised for having no plan B. Well, with these two up front, Hartson on the bench is the ideal plan B.

If Wales haven't scored after an hour, then throw on big, bad John to rough things up. Instead, Hughes takes the cautious route, and the truth is, after a glorious night against Italy last year, he has not taken the team forward.

Hartson was a woeful, lonely figure on Saturday against two centre-backs in Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell, who could have spent the afternoon sitting on deckchairs.

HEAD TO HEAD: David Beckham and Ben Thatcher in a chase for the ball

The midfield was equally ineffective.

Wales had five men in the engine-room to England's three, and yet at times they could not get near the ball or make a telling tackle.

When they did have the ball it was constantly wasted.

Pembridge at times looked to be standing back and admiring the handiwork of Wayne Rooney, and Koumas was not much better.

Gary Speed and Ryan Giggs put in shifts, but neither at any time turned to their teammates and demanded more spirit or bite.

It took until the last ten minutes for an England player to feel the brunt of a red shirt, and even that was only because hot-head David Beckham lost the rag again and crashed into Ben Thatcher twice, to his own detriment, earning him a yellow card and a fractured rib.

Simon Davies' considerable talent was unfortunately subdued at right back, thanks to the loss of 35-year-old Andy Melville to injury minutes before kick-off.

This sent the side out in a shambles, and before they could get it together England had grabbed the Dragons by the neck and taken the lead when Frank Lampard's shot clipped off Michael Owen and into the net after all of three minutes.

But it could have been worse, as England could have been four up in 20 minutes if it wasn't for some poor finishing and desperate defending.

The hosts had a field day, carving open Wales at will, and how it took until 75 minutes to sew the game up is something of a miracle, although goalkeeper Paul Jones and defender Danny Gabbidon can walk away with a bit of pride.

Beckham's goal was a bit special, a curling venomous effort into the top corner, but it was hard to get away from the fact that Wales never looked like getting anything from this game.

The English media will go into a frenzy over the glorious performance of their chosen ones, and Eriksson will keep his detractors at bay for another few months, but they will seldom have a less stressful run-out.

Football scribes often say there are no easy games in international football any more. Try telling that to Sven Goran Eriksson.

England: Robinson, G Neville, Ferdinand, Campbell, A Cole, Beckham (Hargreaves 86), Butt, Lampard, Defoe (Smith 70), Rooney (King 88), Owen. Booked: Beckham (83 foul).

Wales: Jones, Davies, Delaney, Gabbidon, Thatcher, Bellamy, Koumas (Earnshaw 72), Pembridge (Robinson 59), Speed, Giggs, Hartson.

Booked: Pembridge (54 foul).

Referee: Terje Hauge (Norway). Attendance: 65,224.