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“Where Will All The Goals Come From?” Ruud… now Ronaldo

United had just finished second in the Premiership and won the League Cup. It was our most successful season since winning the title in 2003, and whilst still some way off our high expectations, at least we could finally believe we were getting there.

However, our top scorer, Ruud van Nistelrooy, was certainly on the way out, following his temper tantrum at the League Cup final. Louis Saha had been our striker in that competition, finishing the Carling Cup’s top scorer, so had been given a starting role.

Youngster Kieran Richardson, as well as new signings Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, were the used subs, whilst Ruud was forced to remain on the bench. I argued that Ferguson had made the right decision in doing this, giving these three players the taste for success they’d yet to enjoy at United.

Regardless, Ruud was heading through the Old Trafford exit door as fast as his legs could carry him and United were doomed… just as they are now in light of Cristiano Ronaldo’s potential move to join Ruud at Real Madrid.

van Nistelrooy was the 2nd highest scorer in the Premiership in his final season at United, scoring an impressive 21 league goals, with a total of 24 goals in 39 games. Rooney was our second highest scorer that season, with 16 league goals, and a total of 19. Our third highest scorer was Ronaldo with 9 league goals, and a total of 12.

So what was the response of the press when it was announced that Ruud was on his way to Real Madrid? We’ll look to the opinion of Sports Journalist of the Year, two years running, because he will know what he’s talking about.

If United want to muster more of a challenge to Chelsea next season, the last person – after Wayne Rooney – that they should be selling is van Nistelrooy. Selling him would be a huge step backwards and a massive blow to the club. Does Ferguson seriously expect anyone else to believe that the injury-prone Louis Saha is a better bet next season than a goal machine like van Nistelrooy. If he does, then his judgement is waning faster than everybody thought. Ferguson thinks there is no need to buy a new forward when he rids himself of Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Sadly for Oliver Holt, Sir Alex Ferguson has shown him up as being a total prat. Two seasons after writing this, United still haven’t replaced Ruud, yet in those seasons, have two league titles and the European Cup to their name.

In the season just gone, Ronaldo was our highest scorer with 31 league goals, and a total of 42. Our second highest scorer was Carlos Tevez with 14 league goals and a total of 19. Our third highest scorer was Rooney with 11 league goals and a total of 18.

Whilst Ronaldo was behind a large number of our goals last season, it’s important to note that both Tevez and Rooney would have finished in the top ten scorers in the league if Cristiano’s name is wiped from the list.

In Ruud’s last season, he was responsible for 30% of our league goals. The season after he left, with no replacement bought, we scored 11 more goals and won the league.

Last season, Ronaldo was repsonsible for 38% of our league goals, which obviously is a slightly larger proportion, but we now have more efficient goalscorers as our second and third highest scorers. In Ruud’s last season at the club, Rooney (2nd) and Ronaldo (3rd) combined goals total was 28. However, last season, Tevez (2nd) and Rooney’s (3rd) combined total  was 37 goals.

In Ruud’s last season, Ryan Giggs, Rooney and Ji-Sung Park all featured in the top 10 players with the most assists in the Premier League; Giggs and Rooney tied in 3rd with 9 assists, and Park at 10th with 7.

Last season, Rooney was behind just two players in terms of assists last season, providing 13 goals for his team mates, with Tevez on 7 assists and Nani (who wasn’t even a starting player for the majority of last season) on 6.

When you have players capable of creating goals for others, then the player putting them away isn’t essential. After Ruud left, we just found other players to get on the end of the assists. The same will happen when Ronaldo leaves, whether that is this summer, next summer, or years from now. Strangely though, the idea of United existing and being successful without Ronaldo seems to baffle our rivals, like it did with Ruud. The same people will have been suggesting the same when Eric Cantona left, but we won the Treble two seasons later. Will they never learn?

Regardless, those who are expecting Ronaldo to leave, thereby depleting our squad and our team’s chances, are more than likely to be left extremely disappointed when the transfer window closes, as Ruud knows all too well.

“In those meetings, if he wants to keep the player he’ll do everything he can to do so — and he’ll probably succeed as well,” van Nistelrooy, said of Ferguson and Ronaldo. “What he is doing is in the interests of Manchester United. That’s what he always thinks of. Nobody is bigger than the club and it’s true. Will Ronaldo stay at United? I think so.”

So, if Ronaldo is probably staying, why is there so much fuss?

The Guardian produced a write-up on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s testimonial, entitled “Toothless United pine for old stars”.

A Sheringham or fully-fit Solskjaer would be the perfect squad player for Ferguson at the moment; the latter’s testimonial against mediocre Spanish opposition serving as a reminder of how unfortunate the Norwegian was with injury throughout a career that officially ended 12 months ago. Instead, the 20-year-old Fraizer Campbell may yet see himself pressed into first-team contention, and the manner in which he scored the only goal of the game against Espanyol, racing clear of the defence to place Ryan Giggs’s 81st-minute through ball into the net, was a handy audition.

Campbell scored 15 goals in 32 starts for Hull last season and the newly-promoted Premier League club would love to secure his services permanently. ‘His future is here,’ insisted Ferguson. ‘We don’t have many strikers, so Fraizer comes into that area. Also, we’re applying for a work permit for Manucho.’

Young Angolans and untested reserves may not prove the answer in the short-term and the answer, possibly, lies in finding a modern version of Solskjaer.

‘If you brought him on for the last 10 minutes, he wouldn’t let you down,’ said Ferguson, joking that Solskjaer’s 22-minute substitute cameo was enough to earn him a place in the squad for the Premier League opener against Newcastle. ‘He has had that talent all his life.’

It is that knack that United need so desperately.

Ian Whittell, who wrote this, has no better guess than anyone else whether Manucho or Campbell have what it takes to hold down a starting place in this team. Why anyone still would question Fergie or United youth team products is beyond me. Regardless, that is the writer’s prerogative, however, the point I’d like to question is this supposed ‘desperate need’ United have for a new striker.

As all has gone quiet on the Berbatov front, the media are whipping themselves in to a frenzy over United starting the season without a new striker. Who exactly do they think this new striker would be replacing? Louis Saha? He was neither use nor ornament for us last season, yet we still won the League and European Cup. United don’t desperately need any additions, because this current squad proved themselves to be the best in England last season, and in winning the Champions League, arguably the best in Europe.

An out-and-out striker would be a valuable member of our squad, as whilst we’ve done well without one in the past two seasons, our lives would certainly be made easier if we had a poacher in the box. Whether it be Berbatov, Huntelaar, or anyone else, I’d like to see a proven scorer brought in to our team. But as the success in the past two years have shown, our status doesn’t depend on us signing a striker.

This country desperately wants to see United fall flat on its face, but sadly for them, it doesn’t look like it will happen any time soon!

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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  1. Craig Mc says:

    Scott, so glad you are confident mate, good on you!. United did have a fantastic double season last year, but I don’t have your optimism that we can retain with present squad, if United is minus Ronaldo. In Fergie’s own words in the past, the time to strengthen is when your ahead. Anyway, I will be the 1st to hold my hands up and say I was wrong, and will be utterly made up, if this marvelous squad of ours can do it all again.

  2. jsos says:

    i think ronaldo – should he stick around and play this year – will have a competitor for the spotlight in Nani this season. Plus, I do believe Campbell can have an impact. He looks comfortable on the pitch and definitely has something to prove.

  3. Stephen says:

    I personally believe we do need another striker, Rooney and Carlito are marvellous but not natural goal scorers.
    We also need more goals (bar cock head) from midfield Carrick, Scholes, (Mr) Anderson, Nani, Park, Hargreaves, Fletcher only scored 16 goals between them with Anderson not getting on the sheet. This is an average of 2.2 goal per player which is not good. Yes I am a geek! but is is a worry and something we must improve on.

  4. Gab says:

    Do we need a striker? Obviously yes.

    Why? Cause we have been very lucky about injuries and even like that we have lost Rooney for some months last season and that imo was the reason that cost us going into the last match equal on points with chelsea.

    When Utd lose Rooney or Tevez there was nobody to fill that gap. Where was Saha? We all know where is Saha always so there is no point talking about it.

    If we have had another striker we would have wrapped up the league sooner last season.

    we cant put our chances on hoping that Rooney and Tevez dont get injured in a long season, also Campbell is young and wont be our saviour. we need an experience striker to help upfront and rotate. Remember its a long season and too many competitions this year (European Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup, etc.)

  5. 7Bestie7 says:

    We don’t need a major striker, what we need is someone who can come in when Rooney or Tevez (and Saha??) are injured or being rested and make a good showing of themselves, getting 10 goals or so.

    And for Stephen saying how our midfielders need to score more, that’s not really what we use them for. Our style is more in the line of them creating goals, any they score ends up being a bonus.

  6. denton davey says:

    IR Ronaldo goes then SAF will have to re=invent the new NEWUTD.

    IF Ronaldo goes then SAF will have time/options to re-tool this team’s attack around Rooney/Tevez. In that equation, Berbatov or Samuel Eto’o (remember him ?) will be useful alternatives but Karim Benzema would be the best option.

    And, if Ronaldo does go to his ‘dream move” then the money avail for SAF to bring in one or two replacements should be close to 100,000,000 – assuming that three-quarters of that money will come from the sale-of-the-century (for now !) and that there will be lots of cash left over from the prize-money won by last year’s DoubleWinners.

    The goals will come from “all over”; it happened before, it will happen again.

    HOWEVER, I am not at all convinced that Ronaldo is going to go to Madrid. I still believe that this is a protracted negotiation about his wages/image rights with UTD/Nike. UTD can offer him waaaay more money – probably enough for his own private jet !

    This week is supposed to be the time for the crunch talks – good timing, too; the news from Madrid is that Wesley Sneidjer has a buggered-up cruciate and that Robinho is “unsettled” since he wants to get more money from the RentBoyz.

  7. Stephen says:

    7Bestie7 mmm not sure I agree mate, Scholes, , Nani, Anderson and Giggs need to chip in with more goals I appreciate Carrick and Hargo sit more, but we just can’t be so reliant as we were last season on one player to get the multitude of our goals the previous year we scored 30 minus Ronaldo.

    Rooney and Carlito are not out and out strikers, The arrogant one is out for @ least two months, and if we don’t get Berbatov we could do with more goals from midfield that is all I am saying.

  8. Craig Mc says:

    Gab, well said, I couldn’t have put it better myself!.

    7bestie7, if you compare Gerrard, Fabregas, Lampard, Ballack etc, it is good to have at least one central midfielder who knows where the net is.

  9. Patrik says:

    Denton Davey, I agree with what you’re saying. I want Benzema to be our new striker. He was the only goal-scorer against us in last seasons cl-playoffs aside from lampards lucky goal in the final, and what a goal it was. So my money would be on Benzema, and if we have to pay £30 million for him that’s fine cause he’s got a great touch and is altogether a fantastic prospect.

  10. denton davey says:

    Patrik, Benzema for thirty million ? I don’t think so. Aulas is a very tough bargainer and he will hold out for something like 45 million quid – and probably get it, too.

    Benzema might not have been in top form at the recent Euro championship but his team was in disarray. But he is the real deal and well worth the money because – unlike the usual suspects mentioned here – he is the very best #9. Benzema combines speed, strength, and quality with youth and huge up-side that could be unlocked if he were to play with great, great players like Rooney and Tevez (and Ronaldo ?).

    Sure, Benzema would be expensive but when you’re the Double Champions and have a huge stash of money from that achievement, there’s no reason to shop in the bargain basement. Go for quality.

  11. jhunt says:

    good article, well researched as usual scot.

    i agreed with everything accept the last bit, about us not having a poacher in the box. tevez has that quality of nicking last minute, important goals. but even more importantly he doesnt always hit piledrivers or cooly finish under the keeper. of his 19 goals last year, 8 were scored with his head or as deflections off his feet. i think that should ronaldo leave, he will be missed, but not horribly. as you said, we’ll simply have someone else putting them away, and i think that tevez has the ability to do that for us.

  12. sittingbison says:

    We are not going to get 40 goals from CR7 this season. We need a genuine striker to provide flexibility. Get the best young striker available that compliments Rooney/Tevez and provides a target for our midfield, Benzema is the obvious choice.

    An older/experienced option in the 20Legend mould might be Eto’o, but his personality is not that selfless team orientated type – forget him.

    No goals from Anderson last season, and his occasional effort was usually hilarious. However I believe we could see him mature into a Scholes type midfield scorer this season.

  13. Jockewe says:

    Good article, as always.

    If Ronaldo wasn’t injured I wouldn’t be concerned at all but since he is I’m just wondering where the goals are going to come from. Having wathed the preseason games, I feel that the team is having the same problem as usual; they’re not putting the chanses away. However I hope fergie is bold enough not to buy a new striker (if he doesn’t somehow finds a bargain) and let Campbell and possibly Manucho get some chances. Should Campbell succeed it might shut some people up, claiming United no longer produces quality players from their youth academy.

    Ps. Sorry about the bad english, I’m from Sweden…


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