From striking riches, to striking woes

Sir Alex Ferguson began the season with seven strikers; the Scot could end the year with just three, and none of them currently in scintillating form. Injuries leave Ferguson with just two senior strikers for Manchester United’s visit to FC Basel in the Champions League this week – Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck – but potential departures may reduce the Scot’s options even further come January. It is a concern for which there is no easy fix as United continues to grind out single-goal results.

Javier Hernandez’ sickening and unfortunate injury during the Reds’ 1-0 victory at Aston Villa on Saturday has reduced the Scot’s attacking options, with Michael Owen also on the sidelines until the New Year, and Dimitar Berbatov missing the next fortnight after suffering a recurrence of an old ankle injury against Crystal Palace. The early injury to Hernandez, who rolled over on his left ankle and is believed to have torn ligaments, will keep the Mexican out of action for at least a month, according to Ferguson. But that could be an optimistic prognosis; those who have suffered similar injuries, including Robin van Persie and Jack Rodwell in recent seasons, spent far longer on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, Owen, who strained his left hamstring in United’s 2-0 Champions League win over Otelul Galati at Old Trafford, is unlikely to play again this side of a busy Christmas programme. With Berbatov set to miss matches against Basel and Wolverhampton Wanderers, Ferguson will fall back on Welbeck, who has only just returned from injury, to partner the misfiring Rooney in Switzerland.

Still, Ferguson chose to reflect on the positives from United’s controlled but ultimately narrow victory over Villa on Saturday evening.

“I thought we deserved the victory. We had great possession at times and I think we were a bit wasteful with chances we had in the second half,” said Ferguson of United’s victory at Villa Park.

“But a win away from home at Villa Park – which is always a difficult place to come – is a good result so we are happy. I think we should be finishing games off and I’d like to do that, but the one good thing is our concentration levels away from home. I thought we controlled the game. Some of our football was good, there were some good performances from the lads and there was a good rhythm in our game. Yes, we could do better in the finishing department but I think consistency will help us in terms of confidence.”

Injuries will do little to help United’s attacking rhythm though, with Ferguson’s side having scored just once in each of the last seven Premier League games since derby defeat to Manchester City in October. It is a period in which Rooney has failed to hit the net, although the 26-year-old Scouser has frequently been deployed in central midfield.

Attacking injury problems could open the door to Mame Biram Diouf and Federico Macheda. Yet, neither made the bench for United’s fixture at Villa, or indeed, has started a game in the Premier League this season, and Ferguson is expected to sell or loan the pair come January. With just 16 matches remaining in the reserve season it will aid neither man to remain at the club.

“The problem is the type of reserve league we have now, it’s really a youth league, and that is a big problem,” added Ferguson after defeat to Palace last week.

“It bothers me in the sense that the level of training we do was let down. For us it was Rafael’s first game, Darron Gibson’s first game, Mame Diouf’s only played four games this season, Macheda only his third game. That’s not enough football to play in the quarter-final of a League Cup I’m afraid. That caught us and I was surprised of the level of fitness of Crystal Palace against us. In terms of match play we were certainly short.

“[Loans] work well for all young players to get game time and that’s what we are looking at for Macheda and Diouf, they need game time, there is no question about that. Every young players wants to play and we have to give them that opportunity.”

Yet, while Macheda remains in Ferguson’s long-term plans, it is surprising Diouf has any future at the club nearly two years after joining for around £3.5 million. In that period the Senegalese striker has made nine United appearances, scoring one goal. In between joining and last month’s disaster against Palace there was the unsuccessful loan spell at Blackburn Rovers, where Diouf scored six times in 26 games. Three of those came in a Carling Cup tie against then Championship side Norwich. Ferguson is unlikely to make any return on the investment.

Macheda, meanwhile, played only his second senior match for the club in the past year against the Championship side. The Italian is still only 20, but suffered for a six month loan spell at Sampdoria, with i Blucerchiati relegated to Serie B at the end of last season. These likely departures leaves Ferguson hoping that his injured senior strikers return soon, and that they hit the ground running.

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  1. RedDevilInArizona says

    We were never as well off at forward as the numbers appeared to be telling us;
    • Owens is always on the training table
    • Bebe not United quality
    • Macheda needs playing time somewhere other than United
    • Welbeck is young and is going to get hurt
    • Hernandez is young and is going to get hurt
    •Berbartov needs to play in a different system than we like to use
    • Rooney cannot play midfield and striker in the same game

  2. says

    I love how Ferguson spins things: he says, somthing like Villa Park is always a difficult place to come to and get points. Not for us it ain’t : they have only won 1 and drawn 7 of their last 20 home fixtures against us : we have won 13. He must know this: so why say this when he knows it’s not true: it’s one of the easiest away grounds for us to play on (plus we always tended to win cup semi finales there.

    • RobDiablo says

      Ed – There is no reason why young players should be more susceptible to injury, but no one can argue against the fact that, at United, the young players do seem to get hurt a lot.

      The twins can’t stay healthy long enough to cover Right Back.

      Cleverley was injured in the fourth league match and has only made one appearance since – where he was again injured.

      Hernandez started the season injured, came back, was injured at Stoke, came back, and is now out for 6-8 weeks, I reckon.

      Smalling has just returned from injury.

      Welbeck is back from his second injured spell this season, and it isn’t too difficult to imagine that he’ll be injured again before the New Year.

      That’s six of the seven younger players who are competing for places in the first XI and subs bench. Only Phil Jones seems able to avoid the injury curse, but not for a lack of other sides trying to hurt him; I have seen quite a few opposing players go into his ankles with bad tackles. Fortunately, he seems to be pretty sturdy.

      Make that seven of eight; De Gea has been available for every game, I believe. I could have included Anderson – out injured, but his going out is one of the few positive bits of United news I have come across recently.

      • says

        Rob – there is, in general, a problem with the medical team at United. It’s part of the reason why United is going to spunk £25m on upgrading Carrington over the next couple of years. There will be a brand new hospital-grade medical centre. Maybe then we can stop having the annual [insert defence, midfield, striker as appropriate] crisis.

    • RedDevilInArizona says

      Young player are more suseptable to injury because they are still growing, muscles, tendons and ligiments are still be stretched. So when they are going full throttle for a ball or tackle their bodies are put under more strain.

      Also IMO young player are learning how to pace themselves from game to game and within a game, its al part of maturity.

  3. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadforfucksake says

    can someone tell me what system it is exctly that berbatov needs to play in for him to not be shite

    cause when he’s played shite as the main striker we’re told its cause he needs to play in the hole, then when he does that and is still shite its apparently because we’re using him too deep and he needs to be the main striker

    we’re told he needs slow intricate football to play well and do all his shit flicks and marvel at his first touch before watching him walk it out to the byline pointlessly before strolling it back thrity yards to the centre backs, then we’re told he needs fast free flowing football with pacey players around him so he can play too deep and hit shite passes to no one in particular and then flailing his arms around at better players like nani because he’s got an amazing football brain

    • Leif Sward says

      Couldn’t agree more. The amazing football brain also has a blind spot when it comes to the offside rule.

      I say stick Rooney up top and give Morrison a go behind him – maybe not against Basil, but no harm in trying it against Wolves.

    • RedDevilInArizona says

      First off; Berbatov need to play against very porous defenses that he can boss around, he needs to be setup – translates to someone else doing the grunt work – and a quick enough offence that defenses do not have a chance to setup against. This is not the same as a counter attack; think more Valencia very fast down the wing and a quick cross into the middle.

      He cannot play in a fast counter attacking system or a single striker system or a tight passing system. In other work ant of the strategies and tactics used United.

  4. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Lack of strikers isn’t our problem Sid… Rooney is fit… that should do.
    If we lose tomorrow… it won’t be because we were short of strikers… it will be because we’re shit in the middle.

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

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