The fact that United have played the best part of two seasons without an out-and-out striker, after the sale of Ruud van Nistelrooy and the injuries to Louis Saha, seems to have passed most people by. I have to wonder if the journalists writing about United’s title chances have been paying much attention over the past couple of years. Surely it’s hard to miss our consecutive Premiership title victories, and I imagine even more difficult to miss the fact we beat Chelsea in the European Cup final, so why do the media all of a sudden seem to think us retaining the title for the third year running is dependent on us signing a new striker to replace one we sold in 2006?
“Without Dimitar Berbatov, I am convinced that Manchester United would watch Chelsea cruise to the Barclays Premier League title by a good ten points,” is how Tony Cascarino opens his article in The Times.
How can anyone be convinced of this? The title race was close last season, no doubt, but the quality of football the two teams at the top played was leagues apart.
1. Chelsea have a new manager who has won the World Cup. Although I hasted to add, no South American World Cup winning manager has made a success of his career in Europe, with the ones that have tried spending a season or two here at most, before fleeing back to South America for domestic football or taking on the post as another International manager.
2. Chelsea have signed Deco and Bosingwa. Deco peaked several years ago and like Shevchenko has already shown, to move to the Premiership at the end of your career is incredibly tricky. Bosingwa will certainly help Chelsea’s cause, saving them from fielding the inconsistent Belletti and Ferreira, as well as freeing up Essien to play in his rightful role in the centre of midfield.
3. Ronaldo is set to be out until October and he was our most effective player last season. There are 6 games between the start of the season and October. This time last year, Ronaldo missed 3 games for United through suspension and had scored just 1 league goal before October started.
Now, before I go much deeper in to the article, I must mention that Cascarino had a spell as a player at Chelsea and obviously still has fond memories of the club. He was tipping them to win last season League Cup final against Spurs, citing their superior athleticism and the “many players” Chelsea had who were capable of winning the a game. He also felt they were favourites going in the Champions League final because “their powerhouse players have stepped up their game.” However, it’s worth taking a look to see what this former rentboy thinks of United’s chances. His confidence seems to echo that of John Terry’s, which should be fairly amusing come May.
United will feel that they are overpaying for Berbatov by as much as £8million – he may cost £28million. But Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager, would argue that they have little choice and that the outlay will be worth it if United retain their title. It is the only move that gives them a chance to keep pace with Chelsea.
United were ahead of Chelsea from September onwards last season. Now, our only chance of managing this is if we sign Dimitar Berbatov?
They are away to Liverpool and Chelsea on successive weekends in September and the risk of being six points behind after five weeks is too great not to act, despite the price.
So almost exactly like last season eh, when we went five points behind in the opening few weeks. John Terry was quick to brag then as well, but ended up with egg on his face a few weeks later when it was Chelsea sitting five points behind United. Regardless, Anfield is United’s stomping ground these days. As all the dippers will tell you, they’ve been robbed there against us for years. We don’t even need to play well to beat them anymore.
He [Berb] may not have Cantona’s aura or toughness, but he is better technically.
I, like most reds, am keen to see United bring in a striker this summer. We have got away without having an out-and-out striker so far, but I think it could only serve to benefit us if we were to purchase one for next season. It seems as though we will get our wish, with plenty of reports suggesting Berbatov is Old Trafford bound, but I can’t agree that without him we would be in trouble. Berbatov is replacing a player we sold two years ago, and we’ve coped just fine in those past two years. The difference I’d imagine Berbatov making is not whether we win the league or not, but by how much we will win it.