People questioned Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to sell Ruud van Nistelrooy last summer, with the media dismissing any hopes of winning the title due to his departure. United went on to score eighty three goals, a tally which has been beaten on just three occasions since the origination of the Premiership (by ourselves and Arsenal. The highest amount of goals ever scored in a season was ninety seven by us back in 1999/2000), sticking two fingers up at anyone who doubted United and Ferguson.
Fergie has been questioned again this season over his decision not to buy new strikers. With Rossi and Smith being sold on for a total of £14 million, and Solskjaer announcing his retirement, it appeared as though just bringing in Carlos Tevez, who is not an out an out striker, would not be enough for United to retain their title. The opinion was seemingly confirmed after the results of the first few weeks of the season came rolling in. In United’s first seven matches we won just four of them, scoring five goals. Who was to blame? Ferguson for not bringing in enough strikers.
The fact that both Rooney and Saha were injured, which was real bad luck, coupled with Tevez lacking match fitness and adjusting to our team, cost us dearly. Rooney’s first league game, following the injury he suffered in our opening day game, was against Chelsea at Old Trafford. United scored more than one goal for the first time so far this season. Rooney’s return coupled of Tevez settling in lead to some explosive games for United, and we went on to score fifteen goals in our next four league matches, also scoring four goals a game in the two European fixtures against Dynamo Kiev.
However, Rooney is injured again, Saha still has not fully returned from injury, and we look to be struggling in front of goal again, if our last two games against Blackburn and Bolton are anything to go by. Ronaldo’s two moments of brilliance in just over a minute sealed us the win against Blackburn, and with Tevez forgetting his shooting boots before our trip to the Reebok, we did little to threaten the Bolton goal.
Ahead of tonight’s clash against Sporting Lisbon, whereby we are now playing to win the group, after qualification was gained in our last match, Ferguson has pondered over which striker to rely on.
“Louis Saha played a full game on Saturday, his first full 90 minutes since last December,” said Ferugson today. “That was a big test for him. It was an awful lot to ask of him but we’re delighted he got through the game.” With both Tevez and Saha playing in the defeat against Bolton, Fergie has suggested that maybe the pair of them will not be facing Sporting. “I’ll make one or two changes but my biggest concern is what to do up front.”
Winning the group means that we are likely to avoid the strongest teams in the next round, something I’m sure our team would be grateful of. If you want to win the Champions League, chances are you’re going to come up against one of the greatest sides in Europe at some time or another, but it would be nice to delay that for as long as possible. A win against Sporting means we wouldn’t need a result against Roma, who we play just four days before our match against the dippers, which of course would be more convenient for us, particularly if Sir Alex will be in the stands at Anfield. Beating Sporting tonight would make the next few weeks easier for us, but the question is, which striker is more likely to get us the goals. Saha has looked dangerous when making sub appearances this season, but has looked out of sorts when played from the start. Tevez has formed a great partnership with Rooney already, but when Wayne is not on the field, Tevez has yet to shine as brightly.
Which striker do you think Fergie should start tonight? How important is it for us to top the group?