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Why the United vintage of 99 has the edge

Wayne Rooney Manchester United, Robin Van Persie Manchester United.

As Manchester United currently sit top of the Premier League and have just stormed their way into the Champions League last-16, all seems to be rosy at Old Trafford.

Many believe this is due to their sheer firepower upfront with Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez being the fearsome trio that have dug United out of so many holes already this season; Danny Welbeck is also on the fringes waiting to take his chance.

The arrival of Van Persie in particular has been hailed by some as arguably the biggest marquee signing of Sir Alex Ferguson’s tenure at the club; and one which has helped to ease the goalscoring burden on Rooney.

It has led to comparisons with the legendary strike force of the treble-winning 1998/99 side, featuring Teddy Sheringham, Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

So it provokes the question of which strike force is better?  The current trio have got off to a flyer; with Van Persie netting 11 times already this season, while Hernandez has six strikes to his name and Rooney has scored three times.

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Meanwhile, with limited first-team opportunities in the current campaign, Welbeck has yet to break his duck.

In 1998/99, the four United strikers netted 76 goals between them, with Yorke scoring 29 times in his debut season at the club, Cole netting 24 times, Solskjaer adding 18 strikes to the tally, whilst Sheringham contributed with five.

At the end of May, it may be unwise to bet against the current United crop at least equalling or even bettering that total; with 20 goals between them already.

In order to judge which strikeforce is ultimately better, it comes down to comparing the attributes of the individual players involved.

With both players in their respective debut seasons at the club, it would be fair to compare Van Persie with Yorke. Both players in their prime are obviously capable of scoring goals on a regular basis, with Yorke quickly forming a good partnership alongside Cole; while the Dutchman has established a good rapport with Rooney.

However, I believe Van Persie has the edge in this particular comparison, as he can be a threat anywhere on the pitch and produce an individual piece of brilliance out of nothing. Despite Yorke being a superb finisher on his day, he perhaps did not have the same level of genius as the former Arsenal man.

As players, Van Persie may have the edge, but Yorke’s understanding with Cole seemed to be telepathic; not something you could say that with the same confidence in referring to the Dutchman’s working relationship alongside Rooney.

Rooney himself is the ideal support striker or foil man in the operation, finding the runs of Van Persie and Hernandez in space, but it remains to be seen whether he can formulate a similar level of understanding that Sheringham managed with Yorke, Cole and Solskjaer.

Finally, one must compare the supposed ‘super subs’, Javier Hernandez and Ole Gunnar Solkskjaer.

The Norwegian baby-faced assassin made a living out of coming off the bench to score crucial goals for Ferguson’s team; the most notable instance occurring in the 8-1 destruction of a hapless Nottingham Forest side, where Solskjaer came off the bench to score four goals.

In comparison, ‘Chicharito’ has similar qualities, with his lightning finishing inside the box, but has not always come on with the same impact as Solskjaer.

Meanwhile in my opinion, Welbeck is the poorest of the three players, meaning the whole unit is let down as a whole. The 21-year-old works hard for the team and can hold the ball up reasonably well, but his finishing ability and ball control leaves a lot to be desired.

Despite United’s strike force containing superb individual talents, it has to be said that the ’99 forward line has the edge due to the incredible level of understanding between the four players. But the current crop will still score enough goals to ensure the team challenges for major honours once again.

Do you agree? I would love to hear your opinions on twitter. Follow me: @JamesHilsum

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Article title: Why the United vintage of 99 has the edge

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