If you go down to the Mancs today you’re sure of a big surprise. For every striker that ever there was, will gather there for certain because; Fergie and Mancini are having a ruddy great picnic …and every striker you ever have and not heard of is coming, and the milky bars are on me!
Alright, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it made for a passable opening passage. In fact Manchester City have done very well to avoid buying strikers this summer, considering they had about 15 on their books last season, and so far they’ve only shelled out for perpetual troubled soul Mario Balotelli to replace perpetual troubled soul Robinho, who went AWOL half way through last term after he realized it wasn’t nearly as much fun playing Scunthorpe away in the cup on a cold January evening as it had looked in the brochure. Yet it doesn’t detract from the fact that there are now more strikers in Manchester than there are XXL replica Newcastle kits at Sports Direct.com.
Welcoming Super Mario to Eastlands as jovially as Tonya Harding will be Roque Santa Cruz, Jo, Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor, Felipe Caicedo, Alex Nimely and, oddly, Robinho, who is still there despite no one, least of all himself, wanting him to be.
Both he and Santa Cruz should be on their way soon, rendering the latter’s courting one of the most pointless pursuits in Premier League history. But if neither can find a suitor, both will either need to be accommodated or end up being even more pointless. This problem was evident last season, and the jettisoning of one of their new signings was always going to happen this, leading to the inevitable question of why? and the now famous Fergie accusation of Kamikaze spending. Craig Bellamy also remains on their books despite sulking his way on loan to Cardiff.
Ferguson himself has also been stock piling strikers, which is odd considering the one thing United really need cover for right now is a creative midfielder and not yet another forward. Where Fergie’s tactics have differed however is in the status of his acquisitions. While Sheikh Mansour and his illustrious cronies have been scouring football manager for the best well known deals, Ferguson has been scouring youtube for the latest “next big thing” videos set to the ever present sound of “Remember the Name” by Fort Minor. So dedicated to this philosophy has he become that he even admitted last week that he’d never seen new acquisition Bebe play. Something that clearly won’t ever come back to haunt him if it all goes bits up. Oh no.
Welcoming Bebe to Carrington with all the warmth and appreciation of Salieri is Michael Owen, Dimitar Berbatov, Federico Macheda, Javier Hernandez, the loaned out pairing of Mame Biram Diouff and Danny Welbeck not to mention undropable but currently misfiring prodigal Wayne Rooney.
Aside from the good old argument of competition breeding success, what other possible benefit can there be from having this many strikers in your squad? The mainstays and former bosom buddies Tevez and Rooney can’t genuinely relish having to adapt to a different partner each week – at least not with the same enthusiasm as Peter Crouch might at any rate – and for the rotating roster themselves, playing so irregularly and within a presumably perpetually fluctuating system can only be bad for confidence and form. Something Tevez himself rather unsubtly alluded to in his last season at Old Trafford.
Owen needs fitness and form. Berbatov needs confidence. Neither will get it without consistency. Macheda needs bedding in, as does Balotelli at City and neither he nor Adebayor seem like the kind of players to take to long periods of benching with sublime grace and dignity.
United proved in 1999 that four strikers was the optimum amount. Even during that supremely successful season, the myths have hidden the truths. Teddy Sheringham was a peripheral figure and seemed destined for he exit towards the end, having played far fewer games than the other three. He was only rescued from the index pages of history by an injury to Roy Keane in the FA Cup final. He only scored 5 goals that whole term.
So how is all this going to work then? I can only foresee trouble ahead. But I suppose while there’s still moonlight and music and love and romance, they’ll have to face the music. And make bloody well sure they can dance…On cue.