Let’s face it, last season United’s attack consisted of Wayne Rooney and Wayne Rooney. Sure Berbatov scored a few and Owen chipped in a bit but apart from that there was not much else on offer. I mean; when ‘own-goal’ is your second top scorer, you know what has happened. With the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, the onus was very much on Rooney to step up and step up he did. He raised his game to another level, finally stuck in the box more and we reaped the rewards.
What of this term then? United have Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Owen, Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck, Kiko Macheda and Mame Biram Diouf yet despite this a lot still rests on Wayne’s shoulders. He will again be the spearhead of the attack and will be expected to carry the mantle of goal scoring. Berbatov looks likely to be given another chance and I believe that we are yet to see the best of the brilliant Bulgarian. The reasons for him failing to shine are many and I’ve looked at them at length earlier and hence will not be going into depth about it but given a steady role and a settled formation, Berbatov may yet have his best season in a United shirt.
Michael Owen’s signing was seen as a no-risk move. That was exactly what it was but then the signing could be questioned on the grounds of how high or low in the pecking order he was. In the great treble season, United had 4 strikers – Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer who were freely interchangeable and Teddy Sheringham who was essentially the 4th striker who came in on occasion. If Michael Owen was to be used as that 4th striker, then Sir Alex most definitely missed a trick by not signing another striker. If Owen was to be in the top three, then he should have been given more playing time. Wayne Rooney was partly to be blamed for that. Sir Alex publicly stated that there was nothing wrong with Owen’s contribution but it was just that in United’s system, Owen and Rooney as a partnership did not quite work well and that Wayne’s form made it simply impossible for him to be dropped.
The ‘weakest hamstring in England’ resurfaced later on in the season, and Owen was forced to miss the second half of the campaign. If and I must stress on the word, Owen does stay fit throughout the season, there is no doubting that he will indeed add that clinical precision to United’s attack.
What of the young guns then? Welbeck looks almost certain to be loaned out again. Kiko’s agent has said that United will not loan out his client this season. This clearly shows that he’s firmly in Sir Alex’s plans for the season. Diouf, on the occasions that he came on, did show some electric pace but would have to develop a lot to challenge for a regular first team slot. He’s 22 already and loaning him out for a year would probably raise eyebrows. It remains to be seen what Sir Alex decides to do. The latest signing, Hernandez aka Chicharito is as yet pretty much an unknown quantity. Having seen glimpses of him at the world cup, he looks to be money well spent but as is known, the Premier League is an entirely different kettle of fish.
It will be interesting to see what sort of formation Sir Alex decides to play. Over the past 2 seasons, he’s tended to go into the big clashes with a 4-5-1 with first Ronaldo then Rooney as the spearhead. This does not leave any room for any of the other strikers to get a look in simply because of Rooney’s brilliance. In a 4-4-2 however, the gaffer has tried out various partnerships with Rooney playing behind Berbatov or sometimes even ahead of him, Owen with Rooney and even Kiko with Berbatov. While each combination has its own merits and faults, the effectiveness of each can be argued.
With a 4-5-1, united look more fluid at times but at times seem to lack that creativity that is so vital. With a 4-4-2 however, either one of Berbatov or Rooney drop deeper and tend to operate in a floating role which frees up some space but on the flip side, there are lesser bodies attacking the cross that comes in.
Whatever formation Sir Alex decides on and whatever combination of personnel he chooses, one thing is for sure; he knows what he is doing. He has a system in mind and goes about achieving success through this. He does not have an embarrassment of riches at his disposal as he had a few seasons ago but he still has a good blend of youth and experienced strikers more than capable of holding their own.