Fergie strikes out on forward options

May 11, 2010 Tags: , Opinion 14 comments

Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney have come to the inevitable conclusion that Manchester United needs a new striker this summer. Whether Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is inclined or has then financial means to do so is another matter. Indeed, the Scot’s acquisition of Javier Hernandéz brought to seven the number of forwards at the club

In the week that Ferguson defended Dimitar Berbatov and assured the Bulgarian he will remain at the club, veteran Giggs and 34-goal striker Rooney called on the Scot to enter the market.

The call comes from a widespread recognition that United is too heavily reliant on Rooney, who injured his ankle against Bayern Munich in Germany and compounded the problem with a – possibly related – groin strain. The Scouser missed games against Chelsea and Spurs, while hobbling partially fit through the rest of United’s unsuccessful run-in.

“We can’t rely on Wayne as much as we have done this season in terms of goals,” argues 800-game United legend Giggs.

“It was unfortunate for us that Wayne got injured at a really important part of the season because we’d relied on his goals more or less throughout it.

“So to get to the business part of the season and not have him, then to have him for one game without him having really trained, wasn’t ideal.”

Indeed, Rooney failed to score post injury, often appearing no more than 80 per cent fit with highly limited mobility. That Ferguson chose to deploy his half-fit talisman said much of the falling confidence in Berbatov, despite the Bulgarian’s appearances against Sunderland, Stoke and Tottenham Hotspur.

While Berbatov’s statistics this season are on the margins of adequate – 12 goals in 43 appearances – the striker’s £30.5 million transfer fee demands a standard of excellence he has not yet met in his time at the club.

The Bulgarian’s unique talent, lauded by Ferguson and many supporters, is not in doubt. But offered a chance to lead United towards Premier and Champions League glory following Rooney’s injury, Berbatov failed to hit the net.

It’s hardly a surprising statistic to anybody who has seen the broken confidence of a man seemingly scared to shoulder the responsibility. But the striker’s retention, in Ferguson’s lone forward system, will once again leave United vulnerable to a breakdown in Rooney’s fitness.

Yet it’s striking that the Scot now has so many forwards vying for a single place in the side. In addition to Rooney and Berbatov, Michael Owen, Hernandéz, Mame Biram Diouf, Federico Macheda and Welbeck each have their own designs on Old Trafford glory.

While Welbeck, whom Ferguson tipped for a place at the World Cup last summer, will once again head out on loan few of Ferguson’s other options appear suited to playing up front alone. Berbatov certainly isn’t, nor is Owen.

Diouf, meanwhile, is great in the air but rarely deployed as the attacking pivot in his time with the reserves. Hernandéz, who is small and quick but deceptively strong, is perhaps the closest to Rooney.

Despite this Rooney himself believes that the club needs established attacking options to mirror those in place during the 1999 season, when Teddy Sherringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer supported Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke.

“If we can bring in two big-name players in it would give us a good chance of getting the league back if Chelsea do win it,” said the former Everton forward.

“If you look at the team in 1999 that won the treble, we had four forwards, all capable of scoring goals.

“Now there is me, Berbatov and Michael Owen. There is Federico Macheda, too, but if we can get one more top forward in it would give us the right balance.”

Rooney’s wish seems highly unlikely though, with Ferguson’s preferred choice Karem Benzema neither willing to leave Real Madrid nor affordable. The Frenchman, even if he’s available after a poor season in Spain, will cost more than £25 million.

Perhaps even more pertinent are the striker’s wages, at more than €10.5 million gross. Given current exchange rates and substantial tax differences, United’s board would need to offer Benzema more than £200,000 per week just to match the former Olympique Lyonnaise player’s wages. Rooney is on just £90,000.

Other potential options such as Wolfsburg’s Edin Dzeko will command a similar fee, if lower wages, although Ferguson has shown no tangible interest in the Bosnian. Meanwhile, Sevilla’s Luis Fabiano, at 29, is outside United’s stated transfer policy even though the Brazilian is desperate to join a Premier League team. And high-scoring Gonzalo Higuain is still wrapped up in Real Madrid’s bizarre internal politics.

It leaves United is no better position than now, reliant on the brilliant Rooney; hoping that Berbatov suddenly becomes more dynamic, Owen less injury prone, Macheda, Diouf and Hernandez mature beyond their years.

Berbatov’s supporters can bend the statistics and claim 12 goals in 24 Premier League games. Indeed, United scored more this season than last in the Premier League. But the club’s forwards also failed to hit the net on six occasions, dropping 17 points in the process.

They say madness is doing the same thing over and over – and hoping for a different result. But transfer madness is indeed what may face United this summer.


Arijeet - May 11, 2010 Reply

Excellent article. Thanks for pointing out the effect of the exchange rate and tax difference in real terms.

Don Pablo - May 11, 2010 Reply

Excellent piece. Higuain would be perfect. Keen to see Hernandez

brian - May 11, 2010 Reply

giggs will tare you a part again we have sing suares

Col - May 11, 2010 Reply

We know what Berbatov can do and it’s nowhere close to being good enough so if anyone offers £10+m send him on his way. As for the youngsters, who knows? They need games against modest opponents to show what they can do. Diouf might be a perfectly adequate replacement for Rooney because his movement and positioning is that of a striker. His touch looks poor but at least he’d be stretching opposition defences rather than Berba coming short. And when the crosses came in, he’d be trying to get his head on them. Macheda’s lack of pace is a concern while Hernandez may take time to adapt. Welbeck will hopefully become a class act in time but the wait may be a long one.

rob - May 12, 2010 Reply

madrid have just said higuain is “untransferable” theyre just playing cat and mouse, after his goalscoring exploits for them over the past 2 or 3 seasons they will give him that new bumper contract he deserves it. benzema on the other hand has been rubbish but still says he is not leaving and wanted £200k a week to join utd last summer. forget him, lets move on. as far as i’m concerned luis suarez is the one i want at utd. he’s a goalscorer and creator, there is something about him, he is class.

cantona7 - May 12, 2010 Reply

IMHO, SAF plays with 4-5-1 formation only because we have no striker that can partner Rooney upfront. I believe if we have a striker good enough to earn a place in the starting line-up and force SAF to play with 4-4-2, SAF will definitely play with 4-4-2. So i dont think we have 7 stikers fighting for one place, but 6 strikers fighting for the other striker position if any one of them is good enough for that position.

My conclusion is, the formation depends on the best player available for each position.

Richards79 - May 12, 2010 Reply

I also think ferguson has favoured the 4-5-1 this season because there’s been no real steel in midfield, i.e no Hargreaves.

I’m not too sure we’ll buy a striker, we have 7 at the moment!

Ben - May 12, 2010 Reply

Manchester United only play with one up front, not because they lack strikers, but because they are so weak in midfield and on the flanks in comparison to previous sides.

This article dicusses Manchester United’s current problems in detail:


CES Chief - May 12, 2010 Reply

Dear all,

Mr Glazer will sell Wayne Rooney to Real Madrid for 80 million pounds this Summer. This is in line with the clubs resale policy. The funds are essential in order to fund the redecoration of Mr Glazers lounge. Manchester United tm already have tremendous striking options. Fredrico Macheda is destined to become a superstar for the Italian under 21 team. Meanwhile the club have a former world player of the year in Michael Owen. Also Dimitar Berbatov is a player of immense talent. When Hernandez, a player keen to prove he can play football, is added to the mix then the club are in an excellent position to qualify for the champions league next year.

Kind Regards,

CES Chief

Ed - May 12, 2010 Reply

Zzzzzzzzzzzzz your joke lost it’s humour about the 10th time you made it

CES Chief - May 12, 2010 Reply

Dear Ed,

I assure you, the redecoration of Mr Glazers lounge is no joke. It is essential that the funds are raised as soon as possible. Me and my employees also require payment for our services to the club. We have given the club a 20% credit facility but require payment before August.

Kind Regards,

CES Chief

50ftdubdemon - May 12, 2010 Reply

if were just going to go out and spend 20-30 million on an established striker then why even bother with likes of macheda/welbeck/diouf/hernandéz? id rather risk a couple of quiet seasons than stifle all our young talent

also berba looked worth every penny for the few games he got with owen.. no reason to think he wont hit form once he gets chance to play in a 4-4-2

nicorn7 - May 19, 2010 Reply

i second that. I’d rather watch United play like the united of old (442) rather than win playing like bloody Chelsea.

cantona7 - May 12, 2010 Reply

50ftdubdemon yup i agree with you on going a couple of seasons quiet just for the youngsters to develop. This way we can also clear ourselves from the gloryhunters..

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