Robert Lewandowski has become the man of the hour after triumphantly leading Borussia Dortmund to the Champions League final, including a four-goal exhibition against Real Madrid that stunned Europe and surely raised his transfer fee a couple of million. Manchester United long-term target could form a devastating duo at Old Trafford with Robin Van Persie, but would both strikers be compatible at the Premier League champions’ attacking line?
Both players have been the focal point of their respective teams’ attack this season, occupying the No.9 position in most of the games. Although Jurgen Klopp tends to use Lewandowski as the only forward in a clear 4-2-3-1 formation while Sir Alex Ferguson normally opts to pair RVP with a second striker, the Bundesliga and Premier League top scorers have been covering the same role.
With different skills but sharing the same objective – the opponent’s net – the penalty box has been the natural habitat for both strikers this season, to the point that the majority of their goals have been converted within that territory. Therefore, out of the 25 league goals Van Persie has netted this season, only 3 of them were converted from outside the box. Lewandowski, for his part, has only bagged one goal out of his 23 from outside of those boundaries.
With this scenario, Ferguson would have to think how to fit two players that cover the same role in his starting XI. Although almost obsolete in today’s football, one possibility would be playing with both of them as central strikers in a somewhat of old-school 4-4-2 formation. Lewandowski and RVP would be sharing the same space, with the negative consequences that might imply, but as mentioned before, the different features and tremendous quality of both strikers could make it work. Lewandowski is even more of a finisher than RVP and uses his portentous body to gain advantage over the defenders, while the Dutchman relies more on his technique and soft touch. There is certainly room for understanding in the hypothetical Old Trafford duo.
The main headache Fergie would have to face with that option takes place in the midfield, as such kind of formation invites to play with wide open wingers in order to create spaces and goal chances for the strikers. With the poor level of performance shown this season in the likes of Nani, Valencia or Young, opting for that kind of line up as the regular display for United seems, at least, risky.
The second option, perhaps more likely to happen, could be moving one of the two hitmen away from the No.9 spot. Considering both players’ game, RVP should be the logical candidate to be sacrificed by changing his position, as he is far more versatile than the Borussia ace. Converted to a second striker in a 4-2-3-1 display, or slightly moved to the left side of the attacking line in a 4-3-3 formation, Van Persie would be covering a new role at United that could bring profits as well as disappointment to Old Trafford.
On one hand, it’s natural to think it cannot be beneficial to move him away from the goal, considering the ruthless pace he has been scoring at in that position during the last two seasons. On the other hand, however, the outstanding ability Lewandowski shows when dragging the central defenders could give RVP more freedom in the attacking third of the pitch, turning the move into a very profitable change.
At this point, more than one fan would be wondering where in the equation Wayne Rooney should be placed at. Paris, or any other city with a top team economically strong, could be one destiny. Perhaps unlikely, but not unlikely enough to be discarded. United’s centre midfield could be another one, although his best version needs of more freedom in order to approach to scoring positions. The last option could be forming an attacking line with Lewandowski, Van Persie and Rooney. This one would probably be the fans’ choice, although as ferocious as it sounds, it requires a huge amount of understanding between the three strikers in order to exchange positions fluently, or it could eventually incur in a misplace of at least one of them.
Such a tactical headache for Alex Ferguson could never happen if Bayern Munich end up winning the race for Lewandowski and the Polish forward becomes the cherry on top of Guardiola’s cake. If it does happen and the 24 year-old set sail to Old Trafford, Fergie has a lot to do, but it will definitely be a headache every manager would be happy to suffer.
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