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The Doomsday Scenario

If I can start off by clarifying one thing from my previous column. In no way did I mean to suggest that we should never sign young, unproven players – I’ve seen Anderson play this season, and I’ve seen how Ronaldo developed. If our opposing bidders are top-flight European clubs, there is no second bite of the cherry so you have to take the first. But when our competition is a lesser club…that’s when we can stand back and play the long game. Aaaaaanyway, onwards to today’s article.

You might say that this is a great season to be a United fan, and that we have a strong chance of winning either the League, the Champions League or both. You might also reflect that we have a young squad, with plenty of strength in depth and room for improvement, and that the squad is better than last year’s equivalent. You might then add, as the icing on the cake, that we have two once-in-a-generation talents playing for us. And I would agree with everything you said.

But. But I’m a pessimist, and so there’s always a but. But, there is a very conceivable scenario which could turn our season from very promising to very worrying. You’ve all dreamt it, in your nightmares, but I’ll start with some stats.

Each stat below is in twostages: end of last season,to date this season.

Total goals: 123, 68

Total goalscorers: 20,10

    Individual goalscorers:

Ronaldo – 23,27
Rooney – 23, 10
Saha – 13, 4
Tevez – 0, 14
Solskjaer – 11, 0
Scholes – 7,1
Giggs – 6, 3
Park – 5, 0
O’Shea – 5, 0
Vidic – 4, 1
Fletcher – 3, 0
Larsson – 3, 0
Nani – 0, 2
Richardson – 2, 0
Evra – 2, 0
Ferdinand – 1, 3
Pique – 0, 2
Others – Eagles, Silvestre, Eagles, Lee, Smith – all 1, none

Did you read that table, or did you gloss over it? Read it properly, because it’s really important, and concentrate on the lines from Scholes to Fletcher. Here are the conclusions:

1. 75% of all our goals have been scored by Rooney, Ronaldo and Tevez.

2. Our midfield has only contributed 6 goals this season. That includes none for Hargreaves, Anderson, Carrick, Fletcher or O’Shea (ie 5 out of the 6 possible central midfielders). And no, I don’t count Ronaldo as a midfielder. As the ultimate contrast, look back to the Treble campaign – our first-choice midfield four alone contributed 34 goals.

3. We have under half the number of players contributing to the scoresheet, partly because we have increased our squad depth everywhere apart from up front.

This should lead you to have sleepless nights about two possibilities:

The “It’ll Be A Struggle But We Might Make It” Doomsday Scenario – Ronaldo gets a long term injury. We need Rooney and Tevez to score more, and we need the midfield to step up when those two are having off days.

The “We’re Totally Screwed” Doomsday Scenario – Ronaldo and either Rooney or Tevez gets a long term injury. It’ll take a total turnaround from the midfield to get us the number of goals we need to win anything other than the FA Cup.

Remember those dark days at the start of the season where it took everything we had to win easy games 1-0? Guess which two players were absent from those games, and try to remember who we brought on as a substitute striker. Thankfully it was only a short-term nightmare, but we’re one cruciate ligament and one broken ankle away from being there again.

And some of you mocked me when I said in my last column that we should have signed Jermaine Defoe (or another striker). Let’s drink a toast, then, in your half-full pint glasses to the fitness of our forwards.

Sweet dreams.



  1. SwedeNick

    5 February 2008 at 18:37

    Oh, this was a depressing read. We need a quick 4-0 against City, only after that may I dare to write -fuck off- after next pessimistic article.

  2. Gapi

    5 February 2008 at 18:43

    It might be pessimistic but it’s true.

  3. Penguin

    5 February 2008 at 18:48

    On the plus side, Chelsea are doing precisely this at the moment – no Drogba or Lampard, and scraping by with the odd goal from random players (Juliano Belletti, anyone?)…if they can do it, we sure as hell can.

  4. Dan(u-o.l)

    5 February 2008 at 18:49

    what we need is thrashing city with out ronnny scoring.

  5. Umer

    5 February 2008 at 19:08

    Penguin…im really enjoying your articles! depressing as this one might be..hope to see more of you here

  6. Taehr

    5 February 2008 at 19:36

    I just feel sir alex has really really fucked up regarding his striking force this season and it could/will end up hurting the team.As good as it is that Ronaldo is getting goals and many at that,some other people need to start scoring-and frankly speaking there isnt many of them.Andersons goals will come,no doubt, but carrick,hargreaves,giggs,park,saha and even scholes arent going to get much.But thankfully ronaldo is probably the least injured player in world football.When last or rather when has he ever been injured?I recall him once going off on a stretcher but he was in the team for the next game.Give welbeck a chance!

  7. Taehr

    5 February 2008 at 19:38

    And if nani takes more corners vidic would get a few goals also like at everton.Giggs corners are hit just to slow.

  8. fred the red

    5 February 2008 at 19:47

    would have to a agree with RR on the striker point, we are definately one striker short and I hope that SAF does not rue the possible missed opportunity of bringing in Defoe or Huntelaar during the window. As for the goals from midfield situation, I honestly believe that if SAF plays Anderson in the middle and allows him to join the attacks further up the park, He will score goals and plenty of them. Also Nani is definately more of a goal threat than Giggs who is starting to show his age lately and Carrick and Hargreaves never really have been goalscorers. In my opinion the problem is simply this, Carrick and Hargreaves dont naturally drive forward and Scholes and Giggsy are not as young as they once were and these things combined make our midfield too static and predictable.
    Andersons lack of gametime recently is starting to frustrate me because He has easily been our best midfielder this season and the more I see him, the more I think that this kid is going to be a superstar who has the potential to be as influentual as Ronaldo in a few years time which makes SAFs decision not to play him recently baffling

  9. Dan(u-o.l)

    5 February 2008 at 19:51

    with manu going to greece, it gives me(and im sure most of us) an excuse to watch the greek league. im really looking forward to watching Sotiris Ninis in action, he’s said to be the next big thing to come from greece, already broken into the first team of Panathinaikos at the tender age of 16 in 2006, 17 and already wearing the number 7. manu can be the milestone between man u and greece, as we have conections with both portugal and newly angola.

  10. Tomas

    5 February 2008 at 19:55

    I don’t see the point in addressing an issue that will hopefully never happen. Ronaldo is never injured, and neither is Tevez. Rooney has had his share of injuries this season.

    I especially don’t see the point in bringing up these negative thoughts, when there’s absolutely nothing that can be done about it, should your doomsday thoughts be real. I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that SAF has clearly spotted the thing himself and has brought in Welbeck for the rest of the season. Yes, he may only be 17, but we have a few others who did quite well at that age in the current team, so maybe he could be a revelation, if anything happens. For future purposes, we’ve brought in Manucho, who scored 4 goals in 4 games in the ACN (one really good header, and a real screamer from 30 yards out). Stay positive, because the way things are going atm, there’s no reason to think things will change.

    But I guess it’s a typical Man. Utd. fan-thing – over-analysing possible negative situations.

  11. Dan(u-o.l)

    5 February 2008 at 20:00

    thats what ive been saying, i saw a few porto matches, watch videos on tube, and i was won over, i was and still am certain that anderson will be much better than ronaldo, just look at some of the tube videos and see what he can do, in the summer every one was going gaga over nani while i was in the silent few who were silently stuned at anderson.

  12. fred the red

    5 February 2008 at 20:02

    My team for the city match would be

    RONALDO {up front}

    please dont tell me that there isnt goals in this team

  13. Dan(u-o.l)

    5 February 2008 at 20:11

    no chance fred, saf this week said he dont like playing ronaldo upfront, the most predictable team for city would be:

    something based on that, i wouldnt be suprised if carrick/scholes was droped to the bench, andy comes deep and welbeck upfront, it will be that, that line up or giggs as ss and nani left wing. any of them 3 i garan-dam-tee will be selected.

  14. fred the red

    5 February 2008 at 20:14

    Dan, would nave to agree with you mate, watched some of Andersons youtube clips myself and some of his passes in the last third of the pitch were way beyond his age, the kids a natural and has the potential to be a better all round player than Ronaldo

  15. Orgie

    5 February 2008 at 20:20

    i have been thinking about this myself alot recently. What happens if Ronaldo gets injured? i would compare it to the departure of Henry from Arsenal. A key goal scorer leaves and there is no obvious replacement. Now while Tevez and Rooney would be obvious people to provide an attack in Ronaldo’s absence, Rooeny has not been in his best from of late and Tevez only likes scoring at home. So i would hope that, like at arsenal the rest of the team could pull together and start getting goals from somewhere else. With the quality in the squad I’m sure that any minituare doomsday would be avoided due to the ability and responsibility of other players in the team. While the goals haven’t been coming from other area’s so far this season I’m sure we would get by just fine. (I’m positive once Anderson gets his first he will become a fairly regular goal scorer too)

  16. fred the red

    5 February 2008 at 20:26

    I would be happy enough with your team Dan, although I think Evra is suspended and I know SAF said that about Ronaldo but it might be an option because of Rooneys suspension

  17. Taron

    5 February 2008 at 20:28

    Good post, however you forget that any team will be in trouble if they loos their stars.

  18. Dan(u-o.l)

    5 February 2008 at 21:37

    evra isnt suspended, he would of missed a match by now, i think its due to the face that he has 4 league yellow cards and 1 cup yellow card.

  19. Conor

    5 February 2008 at 21:42

    He is suspended, its because he got booked on a Sunday and we played on the Saturday of the next week, the suspension only coming into play one week after. That’s been the rule since the start of last year.

  20. Mike

    5 February 2008 at 21:48

    hey guys i just wanted to get your thoughts on something i heard on Setanta sports. The guy stated that Hargreaves’ career is already in jeopardy at United after that display agianst tottenham? what are youre thoughts?

  21. Dan(u-o.l)

    5 February 2008 at 22:05

    cant comment on that since i didnt watch the spurs game, but surely 1 bad game cant end a career, EVERYONE has a bad game.

  22. RedDevil

    5 February 2008 at 22:21

    This is what I think will be the team against City:
    I think Anderson and Tevez will be the strikeforce, since Anderson has been used a striker in the last couple of games, and Fergie dont like to play Ronaldo as a strker.

  23. colver

    5 February 2008 at 22:25

    To doomsday scenario is more an issue for the Premier League than Europe. Last season our European dream ended due to defensive injuries. If we had a full strength defensive line plus Hargreaves the Milan game could have turned out very differently. And then we did not even have Saha or Tevez!

    Even if one of the three are ruled out we still have two forwards left who are capable of scoring.

  24. Conor

    5 February 2008 at 22:43

    All this crap about Sir Alex is against the idea of playin Ronaldo as a striker! He also said he doesn’t like having to play Rooney as a winger the occasional time, or he doesn’t like shouting at his players, it doesn’t mean he’s not going to do it I think he just means that he definitely thinks Ronaldo is most threatining as a winger allowed to drift, although when needs must I think Ronaldo will play as a striker.

  25. Mike

    5 February 2008 at 22:44

    yes Dan you are right but when was the last time Fergie threw off a player at half-time?

  26. Dan(u-o.l)

    5 February 2008 at 22:51

    he dont, he gives his starting line-up an hour atleast most times, before making changers.

  27. Mike

    5 February 2008 at 23:09

    thank you. Hargreaves was replaced at half-time…

  28. Ryan

    5 February 2008 at 23:29

    Hargreaves united career is not over because of a poor half, thats the most stupid thing i have ever heard!! We chased him for over a year and since we have had him he has been struggling from injury so lets be honest he’s still trying to get rhythem into his game. Who knows he may have had a slight knock or Fergie may have felt we needed a different approach from midfield.

    Fergie will start with Ronaldo up front on Sunday as its his best option, look what he did against portsmouth. Ronaldo will still roam everywhere!! Giggs and Nani will be on the wings. With Elano suspended I dont think we need to play a holding midfielder so i’d expect either Carrick or Anderson to play with Scholes. Its an emotional day so im guessing he will go for experience and play Carrick with Scholes. Brown and O’Shea at full back with Rio and Vidic CB. I’d be very very suprised to see anything different from that line up.

    Only thing I can imagine fergie doing different is sticking fletch on the right instead of Nani but lets hope not eh!!!

  29. real red

    5 February 2008 at 23:44

    Love the man (fellow glaswegian) but Fergies substitution policy is startin to really
    annoy me. He waits too long to pull off shite performances…..mainly attributed to giggs!
    At this crucial time of the season he better adjust his policy n start our talented youngsters. I know that Giggsy needs to get his appearance tally up but for the good of the team he needs to be benched! Dont get me wrong, he still has serious quality but ZERO intensity. Bring him on with 20 mins to go……FINE.

  30. fred the red

    6 February 2008 at 00:28

    developing a partnership in midfield is just as important as the partnership up front, is it any wonder Hargreaves is struggling, one week he plays with Anderson, the next hes benched, the next hes in with Carrick and SAFs saying that Fletcher needs games. SAF maybe has too many options in that position and sometimes his selections just baffle me.
    At this time of the year there is no margin for error so the strongest 13 or 14 players should be getting the most gametime whenever possible. Giggs, Ronaldo, Nani are the best wide men and should be used the most, Anderson, Scholes and Hargreaves in the centre and the rest of the team virtually picks it self.

  31. Sam

    6 February 2008 at 02:40

    Yea I totally agree fred. To be fair I didnt think haregreaves was completely terrible. Its not easy to be a defensive midfielder cwhen your team is struggling to hold onto the ball and seems happy to play with the work ethic of sunday pub team. As i mentioned in an earlier post, it was he who had his shot blocked then when tottenham was countering, he was challening on the touch line. He was working hard, but was fighting a losing battle.

    On the doomsday, we might just get a glimpse of what can happen if we look at ac milan, with pato out, they now have no recognised strikers available for the arsenal matches (well at least 1st leg) and if the kaka rumours are true, they might lose their man for 2-3 months of rest to avoid serious damage. No Gattusso to stop Cesc and Helb. Arsenal are lucky their catching a very ‘weak’ milan team.

  32. Shannon

    6 February 2008 at 04:20

    Very good articles Penguin…

    I think Anderson once he gets that first goal will start to contribute
    i will also count on Scholes to get those important goals he always gets with a couple more games under his belt…

    What worries me more is Ronaldo’s absence in big games… Like if we get to a semi final against a top defensive side… Remember the Milan games last season or Liverpool this season… No where to be seen.

  33. Shannon

    6 February 2008 at 06:38

    Totally agree with the mascott also…

    Pick best 11 now, Anderson and Hargo should always be picked..

    With Scholes comming on as an impact player or starting against teams like Reading

  34. Ganesh

    6 February 2008 at 07:44

    I feel its compulsory that anderson starts.. he adds an extra dimension to the midfield.. scoring will never be a problem.. as we know in the start of the season how rooney and tevez were playing..its just that in the recent recent games ronny’s has taken most of the shots..
    btw hargreaves should play only cl games or against top 4 .. that guys too defensive ..we need to start with either anderson/scholes or anderson/carrick or carrick/scholes..
    Hargreaves is just too defensive.. if we luk at the games he started , they hav been low scoring ones..
    Btw rooney and tevez are always the big game performers..


    6 February 2008 at 08:41

    good articles, penguin.r u going to be regular on this site?
    on the doomsday scenario,i do hope it never happens.but ithink if it does,other players will start to contribute with goals.
    We did had a doomsday scenario last season…a defensive one.but we still managed to win the premier league and went quite close in the FA Cup.

  36. wick3d

    6 February 2008 at 14:26

    i dunno whether ppl actually already knows this it is united’s extra january signing apart from the brazilian fullback twins and manucho

  37. Keith Kaira II

    6 February 2008 at 19:33

    I mock you still, Penguin. Defoe wouldn’t help at all. Since he is shit

  38. Keith Kaira II

    6 February 2008 at 19:39

    I agree with your sentiments about needing another forward though

  39. Utsav

    7 February 2008 at 15:35

    does anyone know whether Tevez will feature in the Derby… He has a friendly vs Guetamal today… Apparently certain reports suggest he may not be back on time////

  40. Taehr

    7 February 2008 at 16:41

    Tevez?today?shit.that means we have no striker?wtf?

  41. Utsav

    7 February 2008 at 17:11

    my bad… tevez did not go for the friendly…sorry

  42. millz

    7 February 2008 at 19:00

    anyone have any thoughts on this possebon kid?

  43. Utsav

    7 February 2008 at 19:43

    i dunno how many have seen this… its the best thing ever… couldnt stop laughing…

  44. Utsav

    8 February 2008 at 06:41

    this place has been too quiet for the past few days… Lets getit moving again…

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