Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson looks set to be beaten by PSG to the signature of Brazilian starlet Lucas Moura this week, but it should come as something of a blessing in disguise. With Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez to choose from already, could the club do with another striker to bolster their ranks going into the new campaign?
The club finished second to rivals Manchester City in the Premier League last term after being beaten to the title with literally the last kick of the season courtesy of the right boot of Sergio Aguero, but such fine margins are what teams are judged by. It’s worth noting that while Roberto Mancini’s side scored 93 goals last term, United weren’t too far behind on 89, while they only failed to score in three of their 38 league games last season compared to City’s five – a major overhaul is far from required, just a spot of fine tuning, with a striker surely top of the agenda.
The acquisition of Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund this summer looks like one of the finest pieces of business done throughout the league this summer, representing excellent value at just £12m, but you could hardly class the creative midfielder as an out-and-out goalscorer. Ferguson has talked in the past for the need to have four strikers within the ranks in order to mount a serious title challenge and compete for top honours elsewhere, with the 1999 treble-winning forward line of Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer serving as a prime example.
Ferguson appears to have earmarked Kagawa as a potential forward-thinking solution going into the new campaign, stating last week: “I always consider 1998-99 as the gold standard of Manchester United strikers. We had Cole, Yorke, Sheringham, and Solskjaer, and when we needed a goal one of them would deliver. It happened so many times. I was always confident that whoever I was sending on could grab us a goal.
“The options I’m now starting to see in this squad remind me of that era. I hope we see a lot of goals. The hardest thing for me will be to pick the right pairing for the right games. And of course one or two may develop particularly good understandings with another. It’s going to be interesting. He (Kagawa) certainly offers us different attacking options,” he told Inside United. “His best position, without doubt, is just off the centre forward. He has good vision and he can thread a pass.”
Kagawa is certainly an excellent link-player, but he’s far from the guaranteed stream of goals that the club may need, with only the aforementioned trio to choose from at the moment, with Dimitar Berbatov still bound for the exit door, even though the club has yet to receive a concrete offer. It all hangs on the Bulgarian’s future, really, if he stays, they probably don’t need another striker, even if Ferguson’s lack of faith in the languid stylings of Berbatov could prove a potential stumbling block, without him, they look around 10-15 goals light of a title charge.
Over the past few seasons, Wayne Rooney has developed a ruthless efficiency in front of goal, scoring 64 league goals in his past three seasons and 85 across all competitions. He is still prone to going through dry spells and even if his consistency has improved, he requires more support, particularly given that Federico Macheda doesn’t look like he’s going to be up to the task and now that Michael Owen is no longer at the club.
Danny Welbeck has come on in leaps and bounds and performed well for England at Euro 2012, and while he looks a decent finisher, he is far from a natural goalscorer and he’ll need to improve upon his tidy return of nine goals in the league last campaign. Meanwhile, Javier Hernandez, in a season disrupted by injury, wasn’t able to make quite the same impact, managing just 10 league goals in his second year at Old Trafford. Both are likely to improve their tallies next term, but they could do with an insurance policy and more strength in depth up top.
The club’s pursuit of Lucas Moura is somewhat understandable, as he’s been looking to push Rooney further forward, with the likes of Kagawa, Young and Nani predominantly being used behind him to create chances. Nevertheless, the club’s pursuit of Arsenal striker Robin van Persie shows a determined effort from Ferguson to add more goals to this side, even if the methodology about how they should get them is somewhat contradictory, with Lucas another support player, while Van Persie is more of a conventional frontman.
Robert Lewandowski and Edinson Cavani have both been linked, while Van Persie is thought to prefer a move United over City if he does depart the Emirates this summer, which if recent reports are to be believed, has seen the club move right to the front of the queue. There’s not an awful lot that needs adding to the current side, as the league is certainly weaker in terms of overall quality than in years gone by – you can win the title now with a flawed side lacking in several positions, just as long as you have the necessary goals in your team.
Rooney’s general standard of play dropped last term when compared to years gone by, which is a cause for concern, but so long as he continues his rich vein of goalscoring form, he’s an integral part of the side, even if his creative powers appear to be on the wane. However, if he were to get injured, all of a sudden a front four of Hernandez, Welbeck, Nani and Valencia, while obviously decent enough, doesn’t especially strike fear into the hearts’ of the opposition’s defence and they’re just one Wayne Rooney injury away from looking like rank outsiders for the league crown.
The club’s poor showing in Europe last campaign was a direct consequence of Nemanja Vidic’s season-ending achilles injury and his return should transform an at times ropey back-line. They could still do with an extra full-back or two and certainly a recognised holding midfielder, with Owen Hargreaves still to yet to be properly replaced, but they shouldn’t ignore the need for more firepower if they are to truly trouble the latter stages of the Champions League.
Cavani to my mind, looks a tad on the slow side for the Premier League, while Lewandowski could probably do with another season in the Bundesliga to help shape his game before the step up up in class and expectation, but if they can, they should push the boat out for Van Persie as that one move could go a long way to ensuring a title triumph come May time – they weren’t too far off last season, but with Berbatov and Macheda seemingly surplus to requirements, a spot needs filling in their squad and Kagawa, great player though he may be, isn’t the one to do it, despite Ferguson’s protestations to the contrary.
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