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The Story Of Our Strikers – What does the future hold?

Chicharito, our Little Pea, has superseded any expectations our fans, players and manager had of him. After signing for United, he left the World Cup as the fastest player of the competition, having scored goals against Argentina and France. He had given us plenty to be excited about but having spent his career in Mexico and not having the build you would think necessary for English football, it was hard to imagine he would make much impact during his first season.

Not only did he make an impact, becoming the first United player since Ruud van Nistelrooy to score 20 goals in his début season, he changed the way United play. For all our big games over the past few years, Ferguson has dumped 442, even shifting Wayne Rooney out on to the left, to try and find a formation which will counteract the strengths of our opponents. In our big games in Europe, it’s been years since we’ve played the more familiar 442/4411, yet thanks to Chicharito, this is exactly the formation we were playing. It meant Rooney’s strengths could be used effectively and we could show every opponent that we meant business. Brilliant.

All of this meant that Dimitar Berbatov, the league’s top scorer, was moved to the bench. Unlike strikers of recent years, like Carlos Tevez and Ruud van Nistelrooy, Berba was happy to play his part in the squad. He came off the bench away to West Ham and helped change the game, as well as scoring a last minute minute winner against Bolton after replacing Chicharito, after Jonny Evans had been sent off with quarter of an hour to play. Having two great strikers isn’t good enough and thanks to Berba’s determination to play for United, it means we get a striker with his great quality as our 3rd choice.

His poor performance as the lone striker against City in the FA Cup semi-final appeared to be his lowest point in the season, until his omission from the Champions League final squad. Berba watched the final from the dressing room (in tears?) and was left to dwell on whether he had a career at United or not. With just a year left on his current deal, we still don’t know conclusively what will happen with him, but as far as he’s concerned, he’s staying.

“I will stay,” he said. “I will fight for the 20th title. If I were an easy quitter, I would never have made it this far. There will be new finals and we will be fighting for new titles. I am moving ahead. When you go through difficult times, you should not quit.”

For the manager to leave him out of the squad, which he admitted caused him heartache, you have to wonder how much of a future at the club he sees for the Bulgarian. Berbatov would be completely within his rights to have a strop and want to leave, so all credit to him for sticking to it. He has handled the situation with usual class, but whether that guarantees his place in our squad, who knows.

Considering it was Michael Owen who got on the bench ahead of Berbatov, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he’s had his contract extended, but it did. The former Liverpool striker contributed well enough in his first season, scoring that last minute winner against City, scoring a vital goal in the League Cup final and scoring a hattrick against the German champions in Europe, as he likes to remind us, but he hasn’t done an awful lot this season. At the awards evening a few weeks ago, he was asked about his personal highlights of the season, which left him shifting uncomfortably, before talking about his first season. What did he do this year? He scored five goals in all competitions and one of those earned us a point at the Reebok after we had gone 2-1 down to Bolton. It’s nothing to write home about though. Assuming we’ve got him on another pay-per-play deal though, it’s not the worst bit of business we could have done.

That leaves us with our two younger strikers who have spent this season out on loan. Some have questioned whether they have got what it takes to make it at United but we’ll never know until they’re given a real chance in the squad. If we assume Berba stays, that leaves Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda as our 5th and 6th choice strikers. Given that Owen, even when fit, hardly got a look in this season, what chance would Danny and Kiko have? Owen is a pro and maybe he’s a good influence to have at the club but I do wonder if his new deal means we’ll be looking to sell on our young lads. How could we expect them to play the odd League Cup game after playing first team football elsewhere this season?

We have been lucky with injuries this season but who we have as 3rd choice is incredibly important, given how prone to injuries Rooney usually is. If we were to sell Berba, we’d get next to nothing for him and in the case of a long term injury to Rooney or Chicharito, we’d be screwed, particularly when looking at Owen’s injury history, regardless of what his brochure says.

So here’s to Rooney and Chicharito scoring a shed load next season, Berba ready to share the load when called upon, and Owen to justify his new contract.

Can Manchester United score? They always score.


About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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88 Comments

  1. Tonka Norris says:

    More loan deals on the way, I guess. Or options being kept open for cash/player arrangements. For that I suspect only Roo and Pea are off the table. Welbeck for Henderson? Owen for Young? either plus Mame & Kiko to Everton for Rodwell?

    This is going to be a fascinating summer. I think SAF is about to build his final team; he has money and players to trade

  2. Red Ben says:

    I think this could mean curtains for two of our strikers – Diouf for certain, and one of Kiko, Welbeck and Berba.

    http://www.fivecantonas.com/michael-owen-deal-winners-losers/

    The worry for me is that Berba probably has the highest market value of those, despite being the most important of the three. Selling him would be a HUGE mistake, but I can see it happening.

  3. sachu says:

    i hope four strikers are rooney hernandez berba and welbeck
    i think it will be rooney hernandez welbeck and owen
    with kiko going onloan and maybe replacing owen the following season
    i think diouf and berba will be sold
    and i belive fergie will use berba to lure a big signing
    I HOPE AM WRONG AND BERBAGOD STAYS

  4. al says:

    owen! owen! that guy loves free money and medals! did anyone saw him against juventus? the only reason why fergy kept him is probly to talk horses

  5. AlphaRS says:

    I think SAF has kept Owen on the books mostly for his experience.
    That experience will be passed on to Hernandez, Welbeck, and Macheda.
    What’s wrong with rotating our strikers? I would hate to see Welbeck and Macheda leave.

  6. Costas says:

    My main worry like I said yesterday is Macheda. I don’t think that his loan spell in Italy has done a lot for his progress. Maybe we will send him to Brucey for a season to see what he can come up with?

  7. BerbaGod says:

    I think the four main forwards/strikers next season are going to be Rooney, Chicha, Berba and Owen with Welbeck playing as the 5th forward/winger. Hopefully Macheda will go on loan to get some sustained and consistent PL action and experience. Diouf – I don’t know :S.. Maybe he’ll stay, maybe he’ll go on loan, maybe he’ll be sold if a good offer comes in.. can’t second guess the Gaffer!

  8. sachu says:

    @costas
    thats a great idea mate
    but if welbeck is in our squad dont u think berba will be sold
    has fergie ever gone with 5 strikers

  9. BerbaGod says:

    @ sachu – You have to think of Welbeck as being more than just a striker, he can operate as a winger too or play just off the front man in that ‘number 10′ role.

  10. Costas says:

    @sachu

    Depends on how ready Welbeck is I feel. If Fergie feels that Danny is ready to make an impact in the first team, then Berbatov could be sold and we will be down to 4 strikers again. But if Welbeck needs more time, that might open the door for Berb to stay.

  11. GoatinaUnitedShirt says:

    I don’t know how it came to me but last night I couldnt sleep, so I thought what else is a better use of my time than organise a dinner for my favourite 11 celebrities with the promise of a good meal and to watch the champions league final next year between United and Barca to round off the night. However what they wouldnt now is my dining room would take off in a giant airship, smooth and suttley so the notice nought. When over the city of manchester stadium (worthy hosts – tee hee) then a giant vacuum cleaner would suck off there clothes and the floor open up beneath them. Wallace and gromit style robot arms with United kits and boots will dress them as they fall past. The idea is they wont have pre match nerves so they will be ready and the adrenalin will kick off at just the right time, either that or they’ll fall to there deaths.
    Anyway here goes.
    Mathew corbet in goal. With Sooty and Sweep on his hands I count 2 very large padded hands plus 4 extra hands, which is needed.
    Ann Robinson at LB because shes the white Patrice Evra
    Bobby Ball and Jimmy Crankie, because we dont need height but we need them to have their wits.
    Margerate Thatcher because she firmly entrenched on the right.
    Defensive midfield goes to Neil Kinnock because hes always on the defensive and has an answer for everything.
    My Wingers would be Bill and Ben so they can flob a lob into the box.
    Attacking midfield goes to Muffin the Muel so Mascharano feels at home and has no desires to move.
    The two forward possitions go to my two favourite actors because theyll have to look the part but not get much action – Will Farrell and Charlton Heston.
    The manager will be me in a sheepskin coat with a parrot on my shoulder.

    Hic fudge, that fly looks like a bee.

  12. sachu says:

    @berba god
    mate i know u are desperate for berbagod to stay me toooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
    but we have to be realistic it looks like fergie wants young and he is definetely awinger
    so if we have young nani valencia park giggs why do u need more also cleverley can play there
    @costas
    mate thats correct also danny would get great learning from someone like owen

  13. Dave Malaysia says:

    Guys , u cud do this allnight but still can come up with plenty of endless possibilities!

    For example , Berba and Welbeck cud make an amzing partnership!

    U cud see Welbeck on one wing and Nani on the other!

    So basically , In this Order , Rooney,Chica,Berba,Owen,Welbeck. Macheda and Mame , no idea, maybe Macheda cud this time go on loan to a Premier side, wigan for example.

    Dont Forget , we have Ajose,King and other knocking on the first team door.

    And lastly , IF Fergie sees someone that good , he may sign, example Lukaku, possible.

    Peace.

  14. MG says:

    Can we talk about central midfielders now

    I think we are running around in circles with strikers

    :lol:

  15. Zelh says:

    Lukaku is fuckin overrated.
    what is so great about shooting 12 goals in 28 games in a league like the belgian one.

  16. BerbaGod says:

    @ sachu – I wouldn’t consider Sir Ryan as a winger now, he may be able to do the job now and again if required but if he does play it will be more likely be in a central role. I don’t know bout Ashley Young, I think he’s a good player and his set-pieces are quality, do think he would do well for us if the Gaffer signs him. I’d prefer a left footed winger IF we did go for a winger, there seems to be a lack of left ‘footed-ness’ in our squad at the moment, can only think natural ones being Evra, Giggs and Anderson.

    Also what if (God-forbid) Valencia and Park were to get injured and be out for a few months or even more – we need options, its a squad game. Only a few players are guaranteed a place in our starting line-up next season and I would say they are Vidic and Rooney, the rest are up for grabs.

  17. nosferatu says:

    I think the key thing here is who we consider Berbatov cover for?

    He’s miles better playing the trequartista role that Rooney has adopted this season than he is playing as a lone striker – he clearly loves linking the play and assisting goals.

    I think that’s been overlooked this season too – it’s not as simple as the emergence of Hernandez, it is also equally to do with how well Rooney has adapted to playing the deeper role – when you play Rooney and Berbatov together the partnership falters, when you play Berbatov and Hernandez together there’s a clear understanding, and also when you play Rooney and Hernandez together. The problem is that whichever way you look at it Rooney and Berbatov don’t fit in the same starting 11, unless you’re going to start adopting a diamond in midfield with Rooney behind Berbatov and Hernandez… As for selling him? It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever – as others have said, being left out can only fuel his desire, and for goodness sake, CL Final or not, it’s only one game of an otherwise stellar season.

    I’m pretty sure the Glazers wouldn’t sanction taking an enormous loss on a player who still is at his peak and has promise to fulfill in a summer where their public image is going to want to appear progressive… I expect him to sign a new contract, he’s unreal.

    I’m sorry but as much as I love Kiko, he’s got to go – we can get a cool £6m or £7m for him – he’s a proven goalscorer already and needs to go somewhere where he’s not burdened by the expectation of his reputation or there’s immense pressure to replace a missing key player (Cassano). I think he’s got the Ben Foster Syndrome.

    I really really liked the look of M B Diouf when he first signed for us, he’s clearly a natural and he was obviously buzzing off playing at OT – but he’s spent all season playing in midfield for a struggling side… maybe another year out on loan at one of Fergie’s close ally’s teams who play swift free-flowing attacking football in the Championship, who may be losing their 35 a year goalscorer… Darren? You there?

    As for Bébé, he’s an unknown quantity and I don’t think he’s going to be ahead of anyone in the pecking order who has more confidence.

    Owen? Great signing, he still scores goals, I couldn’t believe it when I realised he’d scored us 5 in all competitions this season, combined with his professional attitude and experience that’s a good return by anyone’s standards, especially someone who’s made all but one of his PL appearances from the bench.

    Welbeck? Fergie loves him, so I’d expect him to be jostling Owen for our 4th striker position next year. I think that’s another reason Fergie has re-signed Owen, for the competition and the incentive it gives Welbeck – if the young upstart can knowck the old stager off his perch then it’s going to give him the confidence to try cementing a place in the match-day squads at Owen’s expense…

  18. BerbaGod says:

    @ nosferatu – Well said Sir!

  19. nosferatu says:

    @ BerbaGod – thanks!

  20. True Storoy says:

    Good post Scott, agree with your stands. I prefer we keep Berba, as I think he is a unique player – when used right (!), but I do think SAF has signaled that he will be willing to listen to offers for him. I am desperate for Danny to get a shot at the first team, and really do think he has a real shot – given he stays off injuries. SAF has (almost) allways demanded that a young player has at least one good year out on loan, and that speaks for Danny and Tom, but for Kiko it means he needs another year out, it being on loan or a permanent move (with possible buy-back clause this time?? – ref. Rossi).

  21. mara says:

    I m reading about Rossi…and what i m asking myself is, how is he good for Barcelona and is not good for us?
    Second, i think that Wellback or Kiko has to get more chances. And then we have to see are they worth our club or not.
    Third, i think that SAF didn t give enough chance to young strikers, and we lost good players like Rossi and Forlan for nothing. Rossi will score us to our next final wtih Barcelona instead he score them like our player.

  22. gg says:

    welbeck will be our fourth. i have a soft spot for kiko but welbeck gets the nod. he has shown real potential during his loan

  23. dannysoya says:

    this is our pecking order. In my opinion.
    1. Rooney.
    2. Chicharito / Berbatov.
    3. Welbeck.
    4. Diouf.

    The rest can be sold to whoever or whatever.

  24. FletchTHEMAN says:

    Mara,
    Spanish League v Prem. There is really no comparison in quality of the 2 leagues.
    Top 2-3 teams in Spain are something, but below 6th you really are slicing cheddar.

  25. Sparkz says:

    As far as I’m concerned, if Wellbeck is with us next season (and given the number of times SAF has said he will be, I see no reason to doubt it)- he will almost certainly be our 3rd choice. There’s no way he’d give up the chance of week in week out football at Sunderland, unless Fergie assures him that he sees him as next in line if Rooney/Chicha aren’t playing.

    Berba I believe will/should leave, for the good of both parties concerned. £100k a week for a third choice striker just doesn’t make sense.

    Owen will be more than happy to be 4th or even 5th choice. And if we do sell Berba, Owen might have even more of a role to play, as him and Rooney will be our only experienced frontmen.

    Kiko I’m not sure about. I still think he has potential and I don’t think we should write him off. I just wonder whether another year on loan, but in the Premier League would be best.

  26. Sparkz says:

    @ nosferatu- “I think the key thing here is who we consider Berbatov cover for?
    He’s miles better playing the trequartista role that Rooney has adopted this season than he is playing as a lone striker – he clearly loves linking the play and assisting goals. ”

    I’d disagree tbh. In his first two seasons he played that role and it just didn’t work out. I’d attribute a lot of his success this season to the fact that he’s been playing much higher up the pitch, much more in and around the penalty area. Go back to the first 6 weeks of the season, he scored a bucketload of goals because he was further up the pitch, and Rooney was dropping deep and linking up with him (as poor as Rooney’s form was in those early parts, he did create a fair few goals/chances for Berba). It was the same at Spurs, where it was Robbie Keane who was doing the ‘Rooney’ job.

    Then Rooney got injured, and Berba didn’t score a SINGLE goal until he came back, and his performance levels dropped a bit too. Why? Coz he was now being paired with Chicha, who took his position as the striker furthest up the pitch. Berba was back to playing in the playmaker role of his first 2 seasons- and again it didn’t work out (I’d say this was part of the reason for our below par showings in Oct/Nov). Then Rooney came back- Berba moves back up the pitch again- and scored 5 vs Rovers.

  27. evisu says:

    I wouldn’t trust Chicarito to score that many goals as in his first season. 2nd season is always harder and now the players know to watch out for him. I really hope Berba stays he will be needed, its a LONG season people usally forget that. And you never know with injuries.

  28. United4eva says:

    @evisu

    Thats not a good argument. This idea that players didn’t know Chicharito by April or May when he was still getting goals and then over the summer the scales will fall off their eyes and they’ll be enlightened as to how to stop his constant movement is something I just dont buy.

    Did Ruud have second season syndrome? Did Torres? If you’re good you’re good. Simples.

    PS) Dont understand you saying Berba would be justified to strop and leave Scott. Would Park have been justified to do that after he worked his butt off in the 2008 Semi against Barca only to get dropped for Moscow? Its a squad game.

  29. NBI Red Onion says:

    I doubt Berba will stay now Owen has been signed.

    I can’t see the Clun exercising their option to extend the contract and the Club has been silent amidst all the speculation of whether he will stay or go. Re strikers:

    Rooney & Pea – clearly in, clearly talented but we also need a tall fast strong striker who can do more than just knock balls down, but can actually beat a man and hold them off Drogba style

    Owen – he does not cost much I understand as he only gets paid when he plays and is fit to play so a cost effective back up – I am not a huge fan of the scouser, not my cup of tea at all ever since I read in the Mirror admittedly years back that he had a paying dispute with his builder who had 3 kids and his lawyers then froze the guys account and put him under so much pressure he committed suicide – Owen only gets good press so that was buried pretty fast – nasty bastard if you ask me, he wants to stay as the Club is comfortable and prestigious and near his beloved horses – if anyone thinks he gives two hoots about the badge they are a fool

    Berba – too expensive wage wise for a 3/4th choice striker – with 6mn / year off the wage bill SAF could bring in a class player in mid-field and pay him well – 500k/month – too much for sitting on the bench though I think he will want to stay also as he will probably not get the same wages elsewhere and his value has decreased since he joined – I can’t see the point of him staying as we need to blood players and he is clearly on his way out

    Wellbeck – more talented than people give him credit for, he is tall and quick, is still bulking out, can pick a pass and is not afraid to be on the ball. Him and Machaeda have a great understanding, calm in possession, I do not think he is that unlike Tierry Henry at that age, I think with the right focus and training he can be an Henry type player

    Machaeda – disappointing, lack of composure recently, he is best with players who understand his game like Wellbeck, he is not very adaptable to new players, but he showed great finishing ability at United, he is over 6ft and fast and strong, a box player – so him or Pea – depending on height requirements though machaeda can also hit the target from outside the box

    Diouf – started well on loan and hs faded away, but showed some quality, may be a bit too much like Wellbeck and Machaeda but possibly a Darren Bent style player

  30. nosferatu says:

    @ Sparkz

    It depends on whether you want his job to be scoring goals or being a playmaker though I suppose, but good points!

  31. Mr C says:

    @nosferatu..

    You answered your own question..

    “…when you play Berbatov and Hernandez together there’s a clear understanding, and also when you play Rooney and Hernandez together. The problem is that whichever way you look at it Rooney and Berbatov don’t fit in the same starting 11…. unless you’re going to start adopting a diamond in midfield with Rooney behind Berbatov and Hernandez…”

    Berbatov: the most creative and skilful; Hernandez: the best sniffer; Rooney the most versatile and industrious.

    The midfield still needs more pace and bite, though not a complete overhaul. No idea who that one person is but he must be out there somewhere.

  32. mattos says:

    “For the manager to leave him out of the squad, which he admitted caused him heartache, you have to wonder how much of a future at the club he sees for the Bulgarian”.

    he left park out in 08 and we all know how that has turned out. wouldn’t read too much into him being left out from the squad. fergie just plays what he thinks will win.

  33. Gandalf says:

    I was a little surprised to see that owen was given a new contract. I’m with Scott on this one – I don’t think he has done enough to get another year. He needs to raise his performance level next season, here’s hoping.
    Few more top goals against city next year and we will be more than happily eating our words :-)

  34. Sparkz says:

    “Berbatov would be completely within his rights to have a strop and want to leave”

    Smacks of bias. Does the same apply for the likes of Rafael, Evans, Gibson, JOS etc?

    Let’s not understate how important Berba was in the League- absolutely massive contribution to #19. But how much did he contribute to us reaching the Champions League final, to warrant him throwing a strop coz he wasn’t picked for the final? (which he didn’t coz he’s a gent). Out of our 6 knockout games before the final- Berba started TWO (Marseille 1st leg & Schalke 2nd leg).

    Big JOS started FOUR of our 6 knockout games (both legs vs Marseille, 2nd leg vs Chelsea, 2nd leg vs Schalke). Does he have the right to throw a strop? Park played more of a role in us reaching the final in 2008 than Berba did this year (I recall park playing both legs in the quarters vs Roma, and both legs vs Barca in the semis). Does he?

    At the end of the day, as well as Berba did in the League, this was a totally different competition. It wasn’t a decision made out of spite, it was strategic. Fergie felt there was only room for one forward….and if you had to bet your life on someone to get a goal, it’d be Owen over berba all day every day, especially in Europe where Berba hasn’t scored for 2 and a half seasons.

  35. Mr C says:

    @Sparkz

    “Smacks of bias. Does the same apply for the likes of Rafael, Evans, Gibson, JOS etc”

    You cannot really bracket Berbatov with the likes of Rafael, Evans, Gibson and JOS – that’s probably taking the logic of the point too far.

    A more appropriate comparison is with the position of Rooney earlier in the season at a time he wasn’t playing particularly well . Rooney publicly questioned the ambition of the club, the quality of his teammates and chased more money. I would not have thought it possible to survive the wrath of SAF in such circumstances. However, Rooney was given more money and the opportunity to play his way back into form.

    In contrast, Berbatov got the bench.

  36. Ben says:

    LAst few months ive been to Ukraine and i am really surprised with their league, especially with
    Henrik Mkhitaryan from Shakhtar Donetsk ,i watched his game and quite impressed , could be a good transfer!!!!

  37. smokebreaksteve says:

    Good post Scott. The Owen deal puzzles me a bit but think it makes sense. Think Webeck, Macheda and Diouff coming back means nothing at all regarding the first team squad. Diouff will probably go on loan to West Ham as Allardyce gave him a lot of minutes on the pitch when he was at Blackburn. Welbeck will do a season at OT after having a great season at Sunderland but I think the Macheda recall speaks volumes. I posted the other night that I still do not think as much money is available as Gill would have people realise.
    I think the Modric interest could be dead in the water as Ferguson will probably offer £20 million for Modric and Daniel Levy will smugly tell UTD to come back with £35 million.
    Ferguson will then drop all interest and move for Arteta for about £8 million with a season long loan for Macheda and/or Welbeck factored in.
    I can see the look now on Levy’s face when UTD walk away giving him the middle finger. I love Berbatov but we should have let Levy keep upping the fee till midnight on deadline day. We need to move early this time round and not give the prick an opportunity to demand too much money for a player who despite his ability does not have a killer instinct in front of goal. Cleverley could also be a possibility if UTD moved for Rodwell, a player who I personally think is overrated but Fergie obviously has a soft spot for.

  38. RT says:

    I would like to see the 6 in the photo, and add Hulk as well as Owen is usually not fit for long periods, while having Hulk and Rooney upfront will allow Chicha and Berba to be on the bench, and of course when needed can call upon the likes of Macheda or Welbeck (in cup games or injury crisis)

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