Seven strikers into one doesn’t fit



The surprise decision to re-sign Michael Owen means that Manchester United will have up to eight senior strikers on the books next season. With Wayne Rooney largely untouchable, Javier Hernández and Dimitar Berbatov will be joined by returning youngsters Federico Macheda, Danny Welbeck and Mame Biram Diouf fighting for a place in Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. Moreover, attempts to covert £8.3 million misfit Bébé into a striker leaves Ferguson with a plethora of attacking options but a group that needs rationalisation his players are not to be left without football next season.

Indeed, logic suggests only Rooney and Hernández, together with Owen, can guarantee their places in United’s squad next season, leaving Berbatov to ponder his future after being dropped for the Champions League final. Meanwhile, Ferguson’s promise to bring Welbeck back into the Old Trafford fold leaves the futures of Macheda and Diouf in doubt. The smart money is perhaps on neither being at Old Trafford before the start of next season.

In fact the decision to extend Owen’s contract to a third year at the club, despite the former Liverpool player starting just one Premier League match last season, will impact at least one Old Trafford youngster. It is a choice born of practical and financial concerns. Owen is on a heavily incentivised contract, and despite not using the 31-year-old frequently, Ferguson values the experience that the player offers. With Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Owen Hargreaves and Edwin van der Sar departing the club, experience is something Ferguson has lost in quantity.

“Michael has proved to be a top footballer,” Ferguson said of the decision to re-sign Owen.

“It’s unfortunate Michael didn’t get more opportunities but the form of Chicharito put everyone in the shade and his partnership with Rooney proved invaluable. I am delighted Michael is staying for a further year and we will look to give him more opportunities in the new season.”

Owen’s chances depend heavily on how many forwards Ferguson chooses to keep in his squad next season, in particular Berbatov who appeared in 42 games, scoring 22 goals in the season just ended. And while Ferguson may be loathe to lose a player of the Bulgarian’s class and experience, this summer is the last realistic chance that United will be able to command a sizeable fee for the striker. Ferguson is reportedly willing to consider any offer in excess of £15 million for the former Tottenham Hotspur man.

Meanwhile, Welbeck will return to the United first team squad after a successful, if injury-prone, loan spell at Sunderland last season. The Longsight-born striker scored six goals in 28 appearances for the Wearsiders and earned an England cap against Ghana in March. Yet if Berbatov stays at Old Trafford Welbeck is likely to spend most of next season on the bench. Its an observation that could lead to the 20-year-old to leave on loan once again. Although unlikely, Ferguson could also cash in on the player who is desperately wanted by Steve Bruce.

The situation is even less clear for Macheda, who spent the second half of last season on loan at Sampdoria in Serie A, helping the Genoa club to a humiliating relegation. The 19-year-old scored just once in 16 games for the doomed side in a spell now roundly regarded as a disaster. More to the point, Macheda’s decision not to remain in England – Ferguson’s preference – may well point to an eventual exit for the striker. Few players defy the manager and remain to chance the Scot’s patience a second time.

Yet, the player’s agent Giovanni Bia has repeatedly made noises about the Italian youngster remaining with United next season, denying this week a move is afoot: “There is a 90 per cent chance Federico Macheda will remain with Manchester United,” Bia said. “As far as I am aware, Manchester United intend to keep Macheda. They don’t want to loan him out again.”

However, Diouf’s chances at United appear negligible after a poor loan spell at Blackburn Rovers. Although the £3.5 million striker scored a hat-trick against Norwich in the Carling Cup last autumn, just three goals in 27 Premier League appearances as Rovers successfully fought a relegation battle tell the story of a mediocre season. The Senegalese striker has played just five times for United, scoring once, but it is hard to envision a scenario in which he can force his way into Ferguson’s plans next season.

The same can be said of Bébé, although there is no chance United will recoup anything like the £8.3 million it cost in transfer and agents fees to bring the Portuguese to the club. Bébé’s power and pace are not in doubt but regular observers of United’s second string will have noted the limited progression the 20-year-old has made in understanding the game.

The plethora of options means that some players are likely to be disappointed next season; perhaps more so if they stay at Old Trafford only to watch from the stands. Not so Owen, who this week used Twitter to declare his delight at signing the one-year extension.

“I’d rather play less in a top team that more in poor side,” said the 31-year-old, much to Newcastle United’s apparent chagrin.

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Comments

  1. mongoletsi says:

    Berba is the tough one; he certainly doesn’t fit, but he does offer genuine class and experience.

    Owen and Wellbeck as backup to Rooney and Hernandez?

    Berba, Owen, Wellbeck <– that's a lot better sounding!

    All depends on what happens with Berba. Will SAF get a CLASS replacement?

    Diouf, Macheda, Bebe… get rid I say!

  2. Good article.

    Fergie basically had 4 strikers from Jan to May. Even then Owen hardly played, so if Berbatov stays then Diouf has to be sold and Macheda has to go out on loan if he is stay at all. He would be worth it as he can nick a goal when its most needed. A mid table prem side like West Brom would do. Macheda is still 19, Diouf is 23!

    Surely Welbeck will back and fighting for his place. How many games he will get is debatable.

    There is King too who should go out on loan plus Morrison. I agree

  3. This is a good article. I don’t think retaining Owen means much in itself: as the piece pointed out, his contract is really incentivised and he’s still a useful player who wants to stick around, so why not resign him? I think Fergie’s just hedging his bets, and Owen might not see more action next season than he does this season.

    The sense I get is that we might be in the market for a big-name striker, but that there’s no concrete plan, it sort of depends on who becomes available. It does seem like one of either HIlguian or Benzema is going to be let go at Real, it’s not clear which though, and we know Fergie likes Benzema. I think basically if somebody Fergie really likes suddenly becomes a real option, we might push the boat out to sign him, and then sell Berba. Otherwise we’ll hang onto Berba and Fergie will claim that he never intended to sell him at all and that he’s a valuable member of the team.

    I would have thought 2 from Welbeck, Diouf, and Macheda should be offloaded.

    I don’t think we should rule out Beba yet. After all, given his background everyone said he would just go into the reserves for intensive training this season. His performances with the senior team weren’t good, but in a way it’s surprising that he was given a few chances at all. He’s definitely still very rough, but I had the impression that he was scoring quite a few goals with the reserves, maybe I’m wrong.

  4. personally i would

    Rooney, Hernandez and Owen- are very obviously staying

    Berba – He seems to be a square peg at the moment, his not great off the bench, he struggles at being a lone front man and can fluff key chances plus a poor workrate. but he has class and can score league goals, however i think its time to cut our losses and take £12/15m for him.

    if berba goes i would like to see us bring in a proven striker like higuain or benzema.

    as for the rest

    Bebe -loan to a foreign club for 6 months maybe in the dutch, german or french leagues as i think he might struggle to find a good chance of starting at a prem club.

    Welbeck – it seems like he will stay and the fact he can play out wide might help him get on the pitch.

    Macheda – a very tough one as i dont see him starting yet but its been said his going nowhere on loan, but i would try and get him a place at another prem club as the bench here is looking very crowded.

    Diouf – sell or another prem loan as at 23 he could still be useful in the future but its hard to see him getting a shot here.

  5. Bebe and Obertan need to go out on loan at least. If we get a bid of what we paid for Obertan we should take it.

  6. Is Wellbeck really THAT good?
    i think he had his chances, his problem is being outmuscled more often than not.
    of course, wish i was mistaken and he became an instant success.

  7. Spudiator Spudiator says:

    I think Jack’s hit the nail on the head regarding Berbatov being the square peg, he’s good enough for United, he just doesn’t fit into the team in its current guise, which is a shame for him because I still don’t think he’s quite shown us his full potential. Don’t agree about his workrate though, people have this perception of him being lazy because of his body language and because he doesn’t track back as much as others, but you can’t have every member of the team doing that. If everyone tracks back in the team there’s nobody left further upfield to lead any potential counter-attacks.

    Regarding the rest, I actually still think Rooney might go if we get a big-money offer for him from abroad (Fergie’ll never allow him to join another English team as long as he’s in charge). In spite of his vastly improved form in the second half of the season, there’s still that lingering cloud floating over his head from his attempted exit in October, and it’s still gonna take a lot more from him for that to be forgotten and forgiven, so if someone like Barça or Real Madrid (I can’t see who else could possibly afford him) make a mega-bucks offer, I think Fergie would allow it just in case he has another public tantrum in the future.

    Diouf seems almost certain to leave given his age and lack of progress. Jury’s still out on Macheda and Welbeck, I think Macheda might leave too, there were rumours floating around a few months ago suggesting he might have an attitude problem, Welbeck looks more likely to stay at the club, but it depends on whether he’s willing to stick around and put up a fierce fight for a place, that in itself could also largely depend on the Rooney situation. Bebe I’m reserving judgement on for now, he hasn’t had enough game time or been at the club anywhere near long enough to be declared a flop just yet, it might be that he’ll ultimately be deemed that, but it’s way too early to say. I’d like to see what he can do when he’s had adequate time to adapt and play regularly, and then call him a flop if he still doesn’t show enough ability. Josh King’s an interesting one, he seems to have become almost universally forgotten, I haven’t seen enough of him myself to work out whether he’s good enough to make it, but he’s another who needs to make an impact fairly soon while he’s still young enough to be considered a future prospect.

    All in all, I think we’ll see Macheda, Diouf and possibly Berbatov (assuming someone comes in for him) leave, Josh King to go out on loan, and Chicharito, Rooney, Welbeck and Owen to make up our primary forward line next season. I reckon Bebe will go out on loan too, but I don’t see him as part of the forward line in the long term, probably more likely to be utilised as another wing player.

  8. I am really shocked to see people saying macheda should go.He is just 19 and people already have written him off same way they ssaid rossi is shit he should be sold.If rossi was here we may have never bought berba and spent 30 millions (By the way I love berba ).
    Look next season we wont have owen and I think even berba would be going so then we will have 2 reputed strikers in hernandez and rooney so Then the likes of macheda and welbeck and will keane will be useful.We should not hurry up.
    I ma thankful Sir alex is our manager and not us people.

  9. If welbeck gets his chances this season, he will prove the doubters wrong. I have a season ticket at sunderland and watch him week in, week out and he was easily one of our best players all season when fit and he was man of the match against chelsea when we beat them 3 – 0.
    He is quick, strong, has great feet and is quality in the air and he played left wing most of the time but played in various roles and adapted well into them all. Would be extremely surprised if he didn’t make it at man u. Although saying that, I’m not sure he would fit into uniteds system and play the way united play

  10. MrKirie says:

    I don’t want Berbatov to go. the guy is pure class, but I understand that after the dissapointment of not even being on the bench in the final may lead to his exit. I would be gutted though.

    Welbeck could cut it, but would it be too bad to send him out on loan again? Just a tad more experience, he’s certainly not going to get the games he needs behind Rooney, Chico, Owen and Berbatov.

    As for Bebe, I still think we need to give him a chance. Look at where he was not 12 months ago. To expect a player to adapt so quickly is putting too much pressure on a young lad.

    Macheda and Diouf seem to me like surpluss to requirement. Diouf being 23 should really start to impress. He hasn’t. Macheda is 19, so I think we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, despite his less than successfull loan spell

  11. Godfrey says:

    The point in giving Owen the extension was the experience he’ll offer to the side and like Ed’s pointed we lost quite a bit of it in a rush.Hargo,Nevile and Scholes.Huge void.I no people would smirk at seeing Hargreaves in the list but he was a huge miss for us.
    Don’t think Diouf would pass muster as even as squad player for us.
    With Macheda though Im afraid we could end up doing a Rossi.He has potential.Deserves some patience to mature,same goes for Welbeck..
    Of what I’ve seen of bebe i think we do best to be rid of him now..another season running like a headless chicken and Madrid wont be snooping around for him no more…

  12. reddread says:

    I like it when fans of other clubs post here, like the Sunderland fan earlier. It’s always nice to hear things from a different viewpoint.

    I’m not convinced that a four of Rooney, Hernandez, Welbeck (or Macheda, for that matter) and Owen will be strong enough in the Premier league. If Berbatov does go, and I really hope he doesn’t, then we’ll need to spend on another proven goalscorer to maintain our chance of retaining the title and maybe going that extra mile in Europe (although I am fully aware that it is our midfield that needs strengthening in this respect.) I want to see our young lads come in and do well, though, so maybe we just say ‘fuck it’ and bring back Welbeck and Macheda and see how they do, assuming Berbatov does go, of course. Which I really hope he doesn’t. Bébé doesn’t seem to have the awareness to make it at this level. He’s fast, strong and willing, but just doesn’t have the brains at the moment. Whether he can learn this is something he’ll have to prove sooner rather than later if he is to avoid being considered one of SAF ‘s more notable flops.

  13. I hope that we have the likes of Rooney,Chico,Owen,Welbeck and Berbatov in our squad next season.

    I wouldn’t be too disappointed to see the likes of Bebe,Diouf and Macheda move on.

  14. If we had only ONE other striker on our books apart from Rooney and Hernandez, I wish it were Giuseppi Rossi. We must have been out of our minds to sell him (and how much was it for again…?.

    • mongoletsi says:

      Rossi has a clause in his contract with Villareal that gives Utd first refusal should he wish to leave. We got about £7m for him if I recall… surely more to buy him back?!

      p.s. is he not too similar to Hernandez and even Owen?

  15. mongoletsi says:

    We are all of course simply expecting Hernandez to continue in this fine form next season. Many foreign players do suffer in their 2nd season. I hope he’s one that doesn’t obviously!

  16. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    Come on ffs… Rossi has done well enough, but he hasn’t been that good that I’d want him back.
    It’s not like he did a Forlan.

    “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.”

  17. And where would Rossi play in our 11

  18. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    strikers like him aint much cop, and hernandez

  19. baggio365 says:

    rossi (and pique for that matter) were two talented young teenagers that we nicked from foreign teams. they were under the impression that they would get a chance with the first team, and when they had limited opportunites, they wanted to leave/we were happy to let them go. both class. we will never know how good they would have been for us, but they will both have very good careers.

    thats the problem when we get these talented youngsters from overseas. we have a dilemma with macheda right now. not good enough to hold down a first team spot with us, but they have obvious talent and they will come good. question is do we loan them out repeatedly or sell them? if fabio hadnt broken through in the last few months, we’d be facing similar questions with him. next in line will be the paul pogba.

    personally i think we’ld be better off spending a bit more money on a top youngster once they’ve broken through at a club (eg ronaldo, hernandez, smalling), instead of signing them from youth teams.

  20. Rossi will always be a better player Macheda.

  21. DeadRevel says:

    If VDS, Scholes and Berba all leave we will lose so much quality in one summer. Hernandez is not good enough yet to be labelled ‘United class’. Poaching 20 goals doesn’t cut it. Compare him to other similar strikers who stay up front and are relied on for goals… Torres, Drogba, van Persie, Villa. They all have far more to their game than Hernandez. If you watch a compilation of goals that Nistelrooy and Andy Cole scored, they weren’t all tap ins. Half of Cole’s goals were overhead kicks. He is super sub quality atm.
    I’m sure Hernandez will improve, but we would have to bring in a top striker if Berba left. Personally I prefer the Rooney Berba partnership. When the midfield plays well it is devastating. And if our midfield is poor, then really it’s that area which needs replacing, not our leading goal scorer.

  22. captainhormone captainhormone says:

    you do speak sense in alot of ways, but berbatov is bollockless…..hernandez without games would have gone the way of rossi and pique…..but with games he’s shown bollocks that berbatov just aint got im afraid

    fergie clearly agrees too

  23. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    Bollocks will get you into fights… don’t make you a good fighter.

    “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.”

  24. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    That was fuckin good… I gotta write that down.

  25. captainhormone captainhormone says:

    having no bollocks gets you bullied, and walked over

    rather a fighter than a victim

  26. captainhormone captainhormone says:

    write that down too

  27. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    hate getting sweaty bollocks

  28. I think Berba will go provided United get an offer that meets their valuation of him. He’s clearly number 3 behind Chicharito and Rooney in Fergie’s thinking – maybe even number 4 although I wouldn’t read too much into Owen being on the bench ahead of him in the Champs League final. Berba can make all the chest-thumping “I’ll fight for my place” speeches that he wants, in the brave new world of Glazernomics Fergie and Gill won’t want a bloke reputed to be on 90k or so a week to be warming the bench week after week. Fergie clearly doesn’t trust the guy – neither would I given some of his performances under pressure (eg versus Blackburn at Ewood for the 2009/2010 title; versus Citeh at Wembley in the FA Cup semi this season) and again when cash is short but you want to rest your top 2 strikers, do you really want a 90k a week striker on hand to do a job against Swansea??? Or do you beef up the midfield and trust to guys like Welbeck and (God help us) Owen to do the business along with the likes of Nani and co.

    On Macheda, given he’s 19 I wouldn’t be giving up on him just yet. Bear in mind that he will count as “home grown” for the purposes of the 25 man squad when he turns 21 which has some value. I’d be giving him at least another season or 2 to show he can do business – if not, plenty of time then to sell him, he won’t be worth a lot in the transfer market just now anyway.

    • You raise a couple of interesting/intriguing points. Firstly, I think I am in agreement with you in preferring strikers who raise their game for the big matches (especially finals). Has Berbatov ever scored a crucial goal turning a draw into a victory or defeat into a draw in a really cucial game? Secondly, you implicitly raise the question as to how our young strikers (Wellbeck, Macheda) would perform with a really class midfield behind them (which would be a bit like the opposite of how we played this season, an effective strike force behind a chop n change midfield that sometimes went missing (othertimes did really well). We have a much better idea of the kind of midfield players we need, than of the right striker to go into the established mix. I think our young strikers (or at least one of them) could come really good with a powerhouse midfield creating openings and opportunities for them.

  29. captainhormone captainhormone says:

    Did anyone else think the title of this thread was an account of the last United squad Christmas piss up that Ryan Giggs arranged?

  30. reddread says:

    Surely that would be ‘One into seven is a tricky one, but I think I managed it!’

  31. reddread says:

    Double post – sorry!

    “The longbow beats the crossbow, my idiotic friend”

    LUHG

  32. captainhormone captainhormone says:

    reddread said:
    Surely that would be ‘One into seven is a tricky one, but I think I managed it!’

    they both work, but mine is better

  33. reddread says:

    Not yours though, is it? It’s Ed’s. You just sullied its reputation by dirtying it up. Good work!

  34. captainhormone captainhormone says:

    well……i try

  35. Pikey McScum Pikey McScum says:

    *groans*

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