Manchester United should have had a star in Saha

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For a man who once displaced Rudd van Nistelrooy as the striking partner to Wayne Rooney at Manchester United, it is perhaps slightly sad that little has been made of Louis Saha's retirement. 

For Sir Alex Ferguson, he was the precursor to Dimitar Berbatov; a very gifted player but someone who did not quite live up to his promise. His United career ended amidst a string of frustrating injuries that saw him – more often than not – on the substitutes bench during periods where he was fit.

Besides a brief loan spell at Newcastle, Saha’s career in English football properly started in the Championship with Fulham in 2000. In his debut campaign with the Cottagers, he scored 27 goals, becoming the division’s top scorer.

The Frenchman’s impressive tally fired Fulham towards promotion and their first taste of Premier League football.

However, it was inevitable that Saha’s exploits with the west London outfit would attract the top clubs. A move to Manchester United materialised in 2004. Despite showing early signs of his undoubted talent, Saha was struck by several injuries which hampered his first full season in a United shirt.

It was the curse of injury that would blight his career, though perhaps not to the extent of a player like Michael Owen.

Despite injury, Saha’s time with the Red Devils was still relatively productive. He scored 42 goals in 124 games for United, with many of them coming from appearances off the bench.

It was clear that his fitness issues were what brought his United career to an end.

He moved – injured – to Everton in 2008 and scored his debut goal against his former club, Fulham. It was with the Toffees that he would go on to score the fastest goal in FA Cup Final history.

With Chelsea the opponents and Petr Cech in goal, Saha scored with his left foot after just 25 seconds. During his time with Everton, he scored his first ever hat-trick in English football and a prolific strike rate surfaced sporadically.

He managed 35 goals in 115 appearances for Everton; his final season being marred by a significant period without scoring.

With his career seeming to be stalling, to everyone’s surprise he was signed by then Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp. Despite scoring three league goals, Saha’s spell with Spurs only lasted six months and he was released in June 2012.

His career in English football ended with a brief period at Sunderland where he failed to score a single goal.

Despite his obvious talent, the Frenchman never really succeeded in being a consistent goal scorer. There is no doubt that injuries had a part to play in him never living up to his potential.

However, it may also be that his attitude was never quite right; his occasional profligacy at crucial moments – as was seen several times at Manchester United – cost him his place amongst the greats at Old Trafford. 


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Louis Saha
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