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United On The Brink Of Greatness, Again

Watching Manchester United over the past 2 weeks has been frustrating yet at the same time highly exhilarating. Indeed our great club may have not got the start we wanted.

Two draws and a defeat. But who would have thought we would be defeated while playing with such style?

There have been reasons bandied about as to why United has started poorly. The clueless critics say it’s because the entire team has no depth. Others claim it was because of the so called “poor pre-season” (i.e the trip to Asia). Some have put it merely down to our injuries. But in truth there have only been 2 reasons.

Firstly, United’s injury/absentee list is long. From this list, one can see where most of United’s goals have gone. Ronaldo, Rooney, Solskjaer, Saha and Park – players who all got goals for United last term. In addition, Anderson, another attacking weapon has also been injured, further reducing United’s potential fire power. With this, coupled with the continued absence of the attacking outlet that is captain Gary Neville, one can begin to understand why United might not be scoring with the aplomb of last season.

However, when one looks at the amount of dominance and chances United have created over it’s last 3 games, one can’t help but think of there being a deeper reason.

Some have dismissed this to the panicking by fans who mention it. Others as being never satisfied and being “spoiled” by success. But the fact is, United are one striker short from being the perfect team. I will endeavour to explain:

SAF and his team took a calculated gamble when they sold both Smith and Rossi. They thought, by bringing in Tevez, he and Rooney would carry the striking burden of the team till the injury prone Saha and Solksjaer return to full fitness. This, however, was a mistake. One might say Rooney’s injury could not have been foreseen, but in truth, its adverse effect could have been guarded against.

A few seasons back, when a certain Ruud was still around, and Rooney was signed, Alan Smith was basically an insurance policy – to provide competition for our existing forwards and to ensure the club had enough strikers at all times. Even in the absence of long serving servant Solksjaer or any of the other strikers. So basically, United, from then on, went into corresponding seasons with five, proven, first team forwards on their books. (Even though they were not always employed that way!) That is why even last season, Larsson was brought in on loan, to beef up the forward line number. And upon his departure, Dong had already been recalled from Antwerp to keep the forward numbers up.

So it was a strange decision indeed when SAF and Co. decided to let both Smith and his potential replacement, Rossi, go, without bringing in a replacement. Especially with the strengthening, rivals like Liverpool and Chelsea had been doing. United actually weakened a department they were forced to beef up in mid-season last term.

One thing has been clear in recent weeks. United do miss Saha when he is not playing. Yet they have no like-for-like back up for him, whatsoever. But what they have missed more is having more than a striker in the match squads. It’s common knowledge that to win most games in the premiership one needs two strikers, due to the way weaker sides love to pack their 18 yard box, when playing big sides. Apart from raising their level of performance considerably. But United has not had the option of having two proven strikers in the team. Because there is still a hole in the squad left by Smith and Rossi’s absence.

But this is easily solvable.

All United need is another center forward. Of the Saha mould. Everyone can clearly remember how key Saha was for us in the first half of last season. He gave us that extra variety in our forward line that separated us from other exciting sides like Arsenal. Our attack always had a plan B to break down opponents. Right now, United have an opportunity to recreate the variety of the 1999 treble winning forward line, which was supplied by an amazing midfield. The variety that Cole, Yorke, Sheringham and Solskjaer was largely unmatched in Europe, and was one of the reasons United swept the board that year.

Now like in ’99, United are in a similar situation. United then, had the midfield to die for but lacked one forward to make them complete. The signing of Yorke ensured that side became perfect. Now, like then, United are one forward away from greatness. In Tevez, Rooney and Saha United have a good strike force, with old head Ole as back up. But all that’s missing is a man to make Saha’s absences less felt. With a foward line they could mix and match at will to overcome any opponent at home or abroad.

Judging from the way United have played three Premiership games and totally dominated the opponents, it bodes well for the future. United are clearly not in top gear, yet. But you will be at pains to find a single team in recent Premiership history or before even to have totally dominated play in the manner the Reds’ midfield is doing now. This early in a season, when not in top gear, United are basically playing the best football in the league for my money. Thus, if they can sign before deadline day that one player who can make Saha’s absence less felt, and reduce the burden on Tevez’s shoulders, so that the superb Argentine can really settle into things at OT, United can then blast off like a rocket that can’t be stopped.

In my opinion, one Nicolas Anelka fits the bill perfectly. But whoever Fergie & Co. brings in WILL be good enough to do the job. The best we can do now is wait with bated breath. For, if it happens, and we add that one extra forward, the unstoppable all-conquering red storm shall surely begin.

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