Saturday, August 08, 2009

Owen set to take Berbatov's place in United's starting XI?....

Towards the end of last season it appeared as though Ferguson had realised that just perhaps he'd made a big mistake in signing Dimitar Berbatov as the manager left him out of the starting line-up when facing Arsenal on three occasions, as well as the team that faced Barcelona in the Champions League Final.

Ever since his arrival from Tottenham last summer his worth has divided opinion among the fans, some were unhappy when the champions opted not to sign Carlos Tevez but instead the club chose to shell-out £30m to acquire the services of the Bulgarian striker - in fairness, it looked like a reasonable deal at the time even if the asking price was over-inflated.

Roll the clock forward 12 months on following the high-profile departures of Ronaldo and Tevez and everyone including Ferguson is wondering where the goals will come from this season, added to which the United manager has started his mind-games early when attacking rivals Manchester City and Liverpool, some fans are asking exactly why this is given we are still in pre-season. The suspicion is Ferguson is trying to deflect attention from his own problems. As ever though, the talking counts for little because once the action starts the real talking points will centre on results on the pitch and not what goes on off it.

Tomorrow United face Chelsea in the Community Shield, the West London club have installed Carlo Ancelotti as their new manager and it will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure of his first overseas appointment, but given the Chelsea squad has so much experience they are likely to be as strong as ever this season and they must start Sunday's curtain-raiser as firm favourites.

United will be without Vidic, who we are told has a "calf injury", Jonny Evans is set to deputise. Edwin van der Sarr is out with a broken figure, but Ben Foster is more than an adequate replacement.

As far as Berbatov is concerned there must be a strong possibility that he faces being benched again, only this time it's likely that Michael Owen - a free signing from Newcastle no less - will be his replacement. Even if it doesn't happen at Wembley on Sunday it is only a matter of time before Owen edges out the Bulgarian at some point, because the simple truth is despite Berbatov's hefty price tag and reputation, he is unlikely to be United's main striker this coming season and that's despite what Ferguson said recently. Like last season, Ferguson will almost certainly leave out the former Spurs striker, possibly for the some of the most important fixtures, not least because doubts persist about Berbatov's commitment and desire, but somewhat frustratingly, there are no questions about his ability.

Some say Ferguson is a lucky manager and you do wonder if fate will play a part in the season ahead, because the United manager may not have a lot choice but to blood his budding young players due to missing out on his main transfer targets this summer, the fans like nothing better than to see a rising star come up through the ranks and make it in the United first-team. The club has a long and proud tradition of producing home-grown talent and so even if Ferguson missed out on players like Benzema we might well see the emergence of Macheda and Welbeck.

It promises to be arguably one of the most interesting seasons in Ferguson's amazing reign as United manager and if he actually goes on to win the Premier League title it could well be the most rewarding of all given the squad at his disposal. On that note Ferguson went on record last season stating that the current squad was his strongest ever, you do wonder what his response would be to the same question a few months down the line?...

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