Saturday, March 29, 2008

Analysis: Big week for United as striker dilemma resurfaces...

United take on Aston Villa later today and once again the Reds will be without injured Louis "sicknote" Saha, who has, apparently, pulled a hamstring. It's a great pity for United because it would have been an ideal opportunity for the French striker to start especially with next Tuesday's clash with Roma in mind. This latest injury blow concerning Saha serves to once again highlight how wrong Ferguson was when saying that his squad did not need strengthening in January.

To that end United fans will be hoping that this summer the manager goes out and finally resolves his forward line options with the addition of an out and out target man - and someone who isn't injury prone. United have secured Angolan striker Manucho, but according to reports there are still work permit issues to resolve.

Against Liverpool last weekend the Reds started with just one striker, today the manager will do likewise except this time Carlos Tevez will more than likely start, while Wayne Rooney will be on the bench.

The Merseyside Reds were somewhat surprisingly caught out on numerous occasions when United simply lobbed the ball over the top of their central defenders. Having been no doubt been impressed by Rooney (finishing apart) last weekend Fabio Capello deployed the Reds hitman as a lone striker against France in midweek, but the service was poor and the tactic simply did not work, which left many observers to once again concur that in order to make the most of Rooney's undoubted talents he needs a partner in crime.

Against Liverpool, the tactic of deploying a solitary striker worked, not least because the visitors defending and 'keeping was some way below their usual best. However, if United are to go on and win the Premier League and the Champions League the manager will have to continue to pray that both Rooney and Tevez can avoid injury as his resources are pitifully thin up front.

Villa haven't won in four games, scoring just two goals along the way, but at the beginning of the month they should have beaten the Gunners at the Emirates only for Arsenal to grab an unlikely equaliser late on in the game.

Today's clash represents another great chance to cement the Reds lead at the top of the table. Nothing less than three points will be acceptable. There is a strong argument for starting with your strongest/most offensive team - which would include both Rooney and Tevez - the same can be said of the clash with Roma who have scored nine in their last four without reply. However, Ferguson tends to be cautious ahead of and in the really big games which has meant that United have started some games in with just one striker.

If this tactic leads the Reds to glory in their remaining competitions, no one will complain, but should we fail the fans will no doubt look back on this cautious approach and once again wonder what could have been - especially if we fail in the Champions League. As far as the Premier League goes, we can only throw it away now as United are very much in the driving seat.

As for the rest of the team news, Nani is struggling with a knock and Darren Fletcher has been ruled out for what is left of the rest of the season after playing for Scotland in a meaningless friendly. Ryan Giggs could start along with Scholes, both need to improve on recent performances, though Fergie may opt to start with Park in preference to the Welshman.

1 comment:

  1. The frequency of Saha's injuries is extremely alarming. What does United pay him for? To come up with a new excuse from the doctor every time he 'recovers' from a previous injury? I would really like to see how often he gets injured in a season, and how much match-time he has accumulated over the last two seasons.

    It shouldn't be much; given his skills at proving himself unfit for every United match that comes up.


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