A promising start

Despite a mixed bag of results to date, including a disappointing draw at Bolton Wanderers today, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side remains one of two unbeaten teams in the Premier League. Even including late failures at Fulham and Everton, and turgid stalemate with Rangers, it has still been a decent start from the Scot’s side this season.

Although last week’s rout over Scunthorpe United is not the greatest litmus test of the side’s ambitions this season, it demonstrated if proof were needed, that this season’s team has a wealth of goalscoring options. That may not have always been the case at United and will serve the club well this season.

Ferguson’s squad includes five front-line strikers – Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Owen, Javier Hernández, Federico Macheda – all of whom are pushing for regular starting berth. Not even the Real Madrid can boast that kind of strength in depth up-front.

That said, the most obvious deficiency within the current side is a lack goal scoring midfielder. Paul Scholes’ deeper role and Tom Cleverley’s season-long loan to Wigan Athletic have left United short. The injuries to Antonio Valenica and Ryan Giggs have only compounded the problem.

On a more promising note the return of Anderson adds to Ferguson’s options. The flickering embers of the Brazilian’s talent may just grown bright once more. Certainly Ferguson will hope that he will finally become the player United hoped he would when shelling out £17 million three years ago.

On his return against Scunthorpe, Anderson took on the midfield anchor role, with his passing generally consistent. Although the 20-year-old did not play against Bolton today, Ferguson will surely bring the former Porto player back into the fold sooner rather than later.

Ferguson’s new signings have not had a dramatic impact on the side to date but each remains promising.

Recent evidence suggests that Chris Smalling is, in fact, not so appauling. The acquisition from Fulham looks a smart buy following a strong and composed display against Scunthorpe on Wednesday. In the 20-year-old’s two games against Rangers and the Lincolnshire side to date he has shown more than a passing reminiscence of Rio Ferdinand. Keeping the England captain at close quarters can only be a good ploy for the youngster.

Meanwhile, ‘Chicharito’ is yet to fully settle. At times the striker has appeared to struggle with the physicality of the English game despite his promising display in the Community Shield. It’s hardly a surprise but the 21-year-old Mexico international may already have fallen down the pecking order.

An indifferent display against Fulham was followed up by a woeful performance against Rangers, when Ferguson pushed the striker into an unfamiliar wide position. Indeed, against Scunthorpe Chicharito failed to truly assert himself on the home side’s backline, and often looked lost when defending in wide areas.

More intriguing of the three, the now infamous Bébé has a ‘touch of the Ronaldos’ about him on the evidence of his cameo against Scunthorpe. The Portuguese may yet prove the resurrection of Carlos Queiroz’ reputation. Bébé’s direct approach, coupled with his immense physical stature and blistering pace will no doubt trouble even the very best of defences in time.

One of the more promising aspects of the new season is United’s attacking style. Ferguson has once again got his side back to playing the mouth-watering football we also associate with many great United teams. The return of 4-4-2 may have helped, although the rejuvenation of Dimitar Berbatov and excellence of (Sir) Paul Scholes is central to United’s attacking play.

Ferguson’s appointment of Nemanja Vidic as captain could also prove a masterstroke this season, as the Scot attempts to create a more settled side that in the recent past. With Vidic often linked with a move abroad, the captaincy could help the Serbian focus on the job at hand as one of the club’s most senior players.

Yet today’s result with Bolton also highlighted the major fault with the team – defensive lapses that have cost seven goals in three away Premier League games, including two very late draws. United can ill afford for it to continue this trend and perhaps only the return – and consistent fitness – of Ferdinand can eradicate the problem.

Despite the draws on the road United remains second in the table, is through to the fourth round of the Carling cup and is still favourites to top Champions league Group C.

Sterner tests lie ahead than of course. Certainly tougher than the remarkably weak Liverpool side that United crushed last weekend. The next big test sees United travel to the Mestalla on Wednesday to face Valencia, La Liga’s surprise package.

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Comments

  1. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    “Despite a mixed bag of results to date, including a disappointing draw at Bolton Wanderers today, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side remains the only unbeaten team in the Premier League.”

    Fulham?

  2. says

    Unregistered User said:
    Soon as I read the article, knew it wasn’t Ed who wrote it. Positive outlook

    Ha bloody ha – yeah not sure why it has come up as me in the forum…

  3. jools says

    ‘Ferguson’s squad includes five front-line strikers – Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Owen, Javier Hernández, Federico Macheda – all of whom are pushing for regular starting berth. Not even the Real Madrid can boast that kind of strength in depth up-front.’

    Sorry but that’s just clueless giddy shit.

    ‘Owen, Hernandez and Macheda’ – frontline strikers? Utter horse-shit.

    • says

      Jools – articulate. Frontline meaning not reserve players. Hard to argue with the pedigree though. Owen 40 in 80 internationals, Hernandez 10 in 17, Macheda already an U21 international.

      • Dave says

        true, but i dont think real madrid are looking at owen, hernandez and macheda with even the slightest amount of envy … lets be honest. none of them are ever likely to be first choice at united.

  4. Bill says

    Its not all bad, however United have set such high standards over the last 20 years especially its hard to deal with underachievement.

    Still think a cup win is very likely, but the league/CL in all likelihood will elude us.

  5. Jools says

    So it’s safe to say you’d be happy with any pairing from the three aforementioned players to be a regular United forward line? Bizarre.

    And you think that because Owen has 40 goals in 80 internationals in the distant past that means he’s still a ‘front-line striker’ – great, why don’t we sign Marco Van Basen then – he has a great international goalscoring record too.

    Hernandez may have 10 in 17 but against who? And he is ENTIRELY unproven as a Premiership forward – ‘frontline striker? – arse

    Macheda – ‘already an U21 international’ – what’s that supposed to mean? Want me to list all the players who’ve appeared as U21 internationals and not gone on to become ‘front-line strikers’ – until he becomes a consistent Premiership striker how can he possibly be considered ‘front-line’?

    Maybe your standards and expectations of what’s expected from a first choice Manchester United striker are lower than mine, and I’m not saying that none of the above players will make it…I hope they do…but until they do make it, they haven’t…don’t even begin to suggest otherwise.

  6. says

    Jools – the point in the article is clear – Ferguson has more options than in recent seasons. You might not like them but its impossible to argue that he doesn’t have more options. It’s simply true. Nobody said first choice but you.

    As for what you define as a frontline striker – my definition is in his first team squad, and a player Ferguson is happy to start. The fact is all five strikers have started a game for United at some point in their careers and each has already done so this season.

    You might not like the quality on offer. That’s your – aggressive and sweary – opinion.

    • Jools says

      But Ed I didn’t provide the definition of ‘frontline striker’ – the original poster did that when he listed all five strikers and followed it up with ‘Not even Real Madrid can boast that kind of strength in depth up-front’

      Cole, Yorke, Sheringham, Solskjaer – THAT is strength in depth.

      Not five players of whom two are completely unproven and another has been riddled by injury for the last 3/4 years and scored his last international goal three years ago.

      The litmus test is this, if we were playing Chelsea tomorrow at Stamford Bridge and all we had was Macheda and Hernandez up front would you be confident of winning?

      If you answer no then my point is made.

      If you answer yes then my other point is made…ie. you’re talking arse.

      Sorry if that’s ‘sweary’ but sometimes arse is just that.

      • says

        Jools – Dan makes the point that there is increased strength in depth in his article, with Ferguson able to choose from five strikers in his squad.

        His second claim that Real Madrid do not have those options is also true in my opinion. They choose between Benzema (out of form for more than a year) and Higuain for the central striker’s berth in a 4-3-3 system. I’m of the opinion that we have more options for the central striker’s role. Elsewhere, in my opinion, Madrid is stronger but that’s really not what Dan’s article was about.

        Your contention is not one made in the article though – that Rooney, Berbatov, Owen, Hernandez, Macheda is as strong as Cole, Yorke, Sheringham, Solskjaer. You should ask Dan’s opinion before ascribing that comment to him.

        Now, you can say that I am (or Dan, the article’s author) talking “out of my arse” but really all that does is show up your repeatedly proven inability to articulate an argument with resorting to profanity and insults.

        As for your so-called litmus test – its asking a question that was never addressed in the article. Nobody said that Macheda and Hernandez are, for example, better than Rooney and Berbatov. Ferguson clearly considers Rooney and Berbatov his first choice pairing this season. Does that mean the manager doesn’t have other options if he wants – of course not.

        I’m all up for the debate but if you want to just thrown around insults please don’t bother as it’ll be deleted from now on. You’ve had two chances.

  7. jools says

    Lighten up Ed…I think I’ve articulated my alternate view sufficiently…the use of the word ‘arse’ a couple of times doesn’t diminish that fact one bit.

    ‘Strength in depth’ (which is the term used by you and Dan) has very little to do with numbers. I’m really at a loss as to why you cant understand that.

    Strength in depth refers to the quality of the players available, not the quantity…so Madrid have only 2 recognised strikers in Benzema and Higuain…does that mean that Wigan have more strength in depth if they have 5 players that couldn’t kick snow off the proverbial rope? I don’t think so but you’ll probably tell me I’m wrong.

    “Ferguson clearly considers Rooney and Berbatov his first choice pairing this season. Does that mean the manager doesn’t have other options if he wants – of course not” – I never suggested that Ferguson doesn’t have other options, he clearly does, but when those other options are unproven/past it how can they be considered to represent ‘strength in depth’ – where is the ‘strength’? They’re just numbers.

    Why don’t you add in the strikers in the reserves and the academy if it’s just a numbers game – then you’ll have 10 players – we’ll have the greatest strength in depth in the world ever!

    And that’s ignoring (because I’ve already adequately dealt with) the fact that he referred to all five available strikers as being ‘front-line’ which is the nonsense description I actually took issue with in the first place.

    “Your contention is not one made in the article though – that Rooney, Berbatov, Owen, Hernandez, Macheda is as strong as Cole, Yorke, Sheringham, Solskjaer. You should ask Dan’s opinion before ascribing that comment to him”

    Where did I say that Dan suggested that the current strike force is as strong as 99?

    I didn’t – I said that Rooney, Berbatov, Owen, Hernandez, Macheda does not represent strength in depth and as an example of a line-up that does represent strength in depth I offered Cole, Yorke, Sheringham, Solskjaer. It’s called a comparison.

    You should read what I write properly before ascribing comments to me that I didn’t make.

    • says

      Jools – as much as your offensive language, what cheapens your poorly articulated points is an arrogant and dismissive tone.

      Who said its a numbers game? See your last sentence, now take your own medicine. A very large dose of it.

      Dan’s opinion is well reasoned and it’s one I happen to agree with. In both quality and variety of player Ferguson has more options than in a very long time. Last season we were over reliant on Rooney, this season Berbatov is reborn, Owen can offer goals as a backup (and that’s all he’ll ever be), Hernandez is one of the brightest young players in the international game and Macheda is a player Ferguson rates as “fantastic”. But then again you know far more than a manager with 25 years experience, don’t you?

      It’s a reason to be positive, which was essentially Dan’s point. You don’t agree with that fine but snide comments and insults only reflects poorly on you.

      End of conversation.

      • Dave says

        i have to agree with jools somewhat on this, i think you are putting way too much faith in the strikers we have available. i appreciate your point though that we have more options than last year (in that we added hernandez, owen / macheda both fit) but we lost welbeck who is prob on par with hernandez / macheda so hasnt exactly made much difference.

        ‘Hernandez is one of the brightest young players in the international game’ – that is pushing it. and its all well and good saying macheda is ‘fantastic’ but we have all seen him play, he isnt.

        i think keeping owen fit is a major boost as he is actually a proven world class goalscorer, yes he has lost his pace, sharpness and dont get me wrong, isnt the answer to any long term soultion but seeing as we have no money to buy players, think he has been a good addition so agree with you that he adds strength and depth but nothing, in my opinion, to get excited about.

    • says

      Jools – saying that on Wednesday were you when Macheda set up Hernandez to producer a win at La Liga leaders Valencia? Nope we heard nothing from you then.

  8. jools says

    A stopped clock tells the right time twice a day Ed.

    Besides, read what I’ve said, time and again…my argument was never that those lads don’t have potential or wont be good enough.

    But that they aren’t good enough NOW and therefore don’t represent strength in depth.

    I was as delighted as anyone on Wednesday night to see the two lads produce a goal of such great quality in a big match. But I don’t for one second believe they could produce that on a consistent basis right now.

    If a situation arises where *both* of our *actual* front-line strikers are missing or out of form for a sustained period you cant turn to those lads and expect them to slot in and perform to a level that would maintain a push for the league or Champions League.

    Decent players with bags of potential – yes.
    Strength in depth – no

    Oh, and Owen, our other ‘front-line striker’ (the one you reminded me has 40 goals in 80 international matches) had to be taken off at half time yesterday so insipid and ineffectual was he (something Fergie very very very rarely does. He’s a creature of habit when it comes to sub use and invariably waits til the the 60/70 minute mark).

    Has Owen a use? Yes, as a late substitute to get on the end of something in the 6 yard box when we’re pushing for a goal. But is he good enough to cover for Rooney or Berbatov on a week-to-week basis when either is missing – categorically not.

    Strength in depth?

    • says

      Jools – so the only way to define strength in depth, according to you, is to have four players of Rooney’s standard. So four £30m strikers. The argument of a rank plastic if ever there was one.

  9. jools says

    I never suggested for a second that we need five Rooneys. We patently don’t. My issue with the original post on this page was the writer’s giddy assertion that United currently have 5 ‘front-line’ strikers and ‘strength in depth’.

    We don’t.

    We have 2 front-line strikers, and three players outside of that, from which no pairing would be good enough to lead the line for United in the absence of Rooney and Berbatov( for varying reasons of either inexperience or in Owen’s case – being way past his best).

    Is that so hard to understand?

    Fair play to you for defending your writer…it was only a minor semantic quibble in the first instance though.

    As for the final barb on your last post may I remind you of what you said earlier “You don’t agree with that fine but snide comments and insults only reflects poorly on you”.

    Well you’ve handed me the moral high ground on your last post…cheers…as any time-served hoolie will tell you, you cant win fighting uphill.

    The ironic thing is I enjoy your site and your twitter postings very much and have always found you as a genuinely clued-up Red with a realistic United world view.

    Enjoy your day.

    • says

      Jools – Moral high ground? You’d argue it wasn’t high enough! This is becoming a like a bad case of OCD. Same stuff over and over and frankly pretty dull.

    • says

      Jools – Moral high ground? You’d argue it wasn’t high enough. ‘Call that a hill, that’s not a hill.’ This is becoming a like a bad case of OCD. Same stuff over and over.

      You could have Pele and Maradona on the bench but it would make little difference to the shower of crap that is United’s midfield

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