When news broke that we’d signed Tevez a few weeks back, I thought it had to be too good to be true. Over the following days, that statement seemed quite literal, and it looked as though the deal was going to fall through. As we’ve waited for the FA to pull their finger out, the papers have been filled with the discussion of whether Rooney and Tevez could play together. The “two bulls”, as Mark Lawrenson referred to them, are deemed to be too alike, with similar strengths and weaknesses. The Telegraph reported, “Tevez has always been a forward who, in Argentine terms, plays “in the Maradona position” behind an out-and-out frontman. Since this is where Wayne Rooney prefers to be stationed, there may be a conflict.” However, amidst all of this, I think a more important topic is being looked over. What about Louis Saha?
Louis has become increasingly unpopular at United due to the length of time he’s spending out injured each season. Whilst initially we were split on our feelings over the Saha vs van Nistelrooy issue, Saha quickly proved Ferguson was right to rely on him. He bagged 15 goals in 30 appearances in 2005/2006, and scoring in every League Cup game we played, the competition we won that season. He started the following season well, and added to the new, slick football United were playing. Rather than having a striker who relied on others to provide him with the ball, Saha would go deeper, collect the ball himself, setting up other players as well as himself.
However, Saha played his last game for United on the first weekend in March, missing the remaining nine league games, two semi finals, and a final. Every time he came close to returning, there was always another set back. With three of our first choice four defenders out injured, the last thing we needed was our striker missing, especially at a time when Chelsea had seen the return of Cech, Terry and Joe Cole. With Solskjaer injured, and Smith making a comeback after eighteen months of no football, we were left playing old man Giggsy supporting Rooney up front, relying on Fletcher, O’Shea or Richardson to pad out the midfield in Giggs’ place, due to the injury of Park.
We won the league, got closer to the European Cup than we had in years, and made yet another FA Cup final, but Ferguson wanted more. Rumours said Ferguson wasn’t happy with Saha, because, it was believed, the problem with him was more a psychological than a physical one. Could United had an even better season if we had Saha in the team to take the pressure of other players? So that Giggs could play in position or be rested, so that Rooney wasn’t left up front by himself, and more importantly, having an out and out striker on the field in our important games. Was it Saha’s supposed decission not to come back which cost us another trophy this season?
As the gossip circulated, Saha spoke out about his feelings on the club. “I want to stay,” he said. “I love this club and I don’t want to leave. If other good strikers are coming to United I find that good, if that helps us defend our title and win others next year.”
Saha sat on United’s bench for two years before he was given his big break with the club, and he did so happily. What swayed him in favour over Ruud in my mind was his attitude, and whilst Ruud was sulking when not getting picked, Saha waited patiently on the bench for a chance. He knows he is lucky to be in the situation he’s in, knows he’s done well, and is grateful to Sir Alex. At the end of last season he was interviewed, and said, “Alex Ferguson’s support means everything to me. There are no words to explain how hard it was being out injured. My team-mates were great, and all the staff too. But the manager was outstanding. I told him after my last injury ‘Don’t look after me when I come back, I don’t deserve it’. I thought there were players that deserved more attention because I hadn’t reached the level I should have. But the way he responded to that was amazing. He reassured me and said ‘No, you’re coming back’. His reaction was the mark of a great man.”
Saha is a different kind of striker to both Rooney and Tevez, but does that mean he should get a starting place in the team? Tevez is the newbie, but does he get a starting place in the team without, like Saha before him, spending time on the bench and earning his place? Would we be disadvantaging ourselves having two similar players up front, rather than having the variety Saha brings? Would bringing Tevez on to the field with half an hour play make us unbeatable?
Solskjaer has argued for the pairing of our new Argie and Rooney, saying, “no single player is exactly the same. Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke – everyone said they can’t play together, absolutely no chance, but we all know what happened to those two.” Surely this is the case. Of course I don’t want to tempt fate or jinx our new signing, but you would like to think any top class players have the capacity to be able to play together, and play well. Having two players with similiar qualities should not necessarily be deemed a bad thing, as which club should shun the opportunity to have “two Wayne Rooney’s” on their team. Tevez could, and should, double the effect of our attack, giving us extra strength, rather than serving as a superfluous player.
Tevez is set to get a game on derby day, and due to injuries, shouldn’t have anyone rivalling his place in the team until September. This is his time to shine, and like Larsson before him, gelling with the team straight away is a must to cement a place in the team.
Regardless, whatever problems there are said to be between playing Rooney and Tevez, and of Saha’s reocurring injury, I cannot wait to see our attack in full force. The options of Rooney, Saha, Tevez, Ronaldo, Nani and Anderson are absolutely terrifying, and we need to burst out of the blocks on Sunday. Here’s to a repeat of the first game last season, and our attack to show the country we want to keep our title. We’ve got our trophy back, and with playing the most exciting, attacking football in the league, we intend to keep it.