Do Sir Alex’s striking claims really add up?

Manchester United’s forward line of the 1999 treble winning season has gone down in club folklore. Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke formed one of the most potent strike lines in the history of the Premier League, and with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham backing the pair up, they formed what is generally regarded as the club’s best set of forwards in the last twenty years. Since then United have had a series of top class forwards, but recently Sir Alex Ferguson stated that his current crop may just be the best since 1999, he stated,

“In terms of numbers, it’s the best strike force since 1999. I’m sure they will all get their chance.”

Whilst Ferguson evidently believes the numbers are there, the wider question and perhaps the more important one is whether the quality of his strikers is the best since 1999?

Manchester United’s current stable of forwards certainly has depth on its side. Wayne Rooney is the club’s best striker, and he is a world-class talent despite the difficulties he is currently experiencing. Next in the pecking order is Dimitar Berbatov; the Bulgarian is an incredibly gifted player but opinion at Old Trafford has been divided on him, so far this season though, Berbatov has shown some great form and you get the impression he is finally getting it and will have a good season for United.

Javier Hernandez looked like a hot prospect in the World Cup, though he is young and unproven in the Premiership and we await to see how he will perform this season. Bebe similarly is unproven, and judgement has to be withheld on him. Federico Macheda made a huge impact on his debut in April 2009, scoring a sensational injury time winner against Aston Villa, but since then his first team chances have been limited and like Hernandez and Bebe, it remains to be seen whether he can be a consistent performer in the Premier League.

Finally there is Michael Owen, a natural born goal scorer, but he has been plagued by injuries and is not getting any younger, and the jury is still out on his effectiveness for Man Utd. It leaves United with two top quality established strikers, and four more who will need to prove themselves, while there is numbers, the quality of the forward line is in my view not the best since 1999.

Ruud van Nistelrooy was an unstoppable striker for Manchester United in the early to mid 2000’s, but he was not really part of a great selection of forwards as would be seen in later years. United’s best attack since 1999 in my view, was the triumvirate of Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo, with Dimitar Berbatov also present in this line-up in the 2008/09 season. The trio of Rooney, Tevez and Ronaldo was arguably the most formidable set of forwards in Europe at the time, with their crowning glory coming in the 2007/08 season when the club won the Premier League and the Champions League, Louis Saha also acted as a back-up in this season.

Manchester United’s current attack is undoubtedly quality, but while Ferguson believes it is the best in terms of numbers, in terms of quality, the seasons between 2007 and 2009 saw in my opinion what constitutes Man Utd’s best attack since 1999 and beyond Rooney and Berbatov, we will have to wait and see how the club’s other strikers perform this season.

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