Football

Rebuilding Manchester United: The strikers

Chicharito and Danny Welbeck (©GettyImages)
Chicharito and Danny Welbeck (©GettyImages).

Is it time to think the unthinkable? All across the Manchester United squad, there is an urgent need for fundamental rebuilding - whoever the manager is next season.

Despite United's 11 point canter to the  Premier League title last season, it has been widely held that this was one of their worst teams ever. Indeed success can largely be put down to: Sir Alex Ferguson's need for a swan-song; the disastrous last minute title loss in 2012; the depth of the squad; and the arrival of Robin van Persie.

Time for drastic change

Irrespective of the disappointing slide in performance, any manager coming into the toughest job in world football would have had to rebuild the squad they inherited. At least the emergence of Adnan Januzaj has saved one hefty fee.

United are still one of the biggest global brands, in and out of football, so whereas Sir Alex has previously rebuilt with a mix of new signings, emerging talent and journeymen squad players, now is the time for the 'big ticket' signings.

Despite another relatively disappointing transfer window, Moyes did at least tick one very important box by making a 'marquee' signing in Juan Mata. Along with Rooney, Van Persie, De Gea, Vidic and probably Januzaj, he is genuinely world class.

Now the manager (or whoever succeeds him) needs to follow that coup with players of international or world class standing all across the pitch.

Today we start with the strikers. In future articles we will look at attacking players, midfield, defence and keepers.

Some surprising changes in store?

Even before Sir Alex retired it was obvious that some significant squad changes would be necessary. Few people would have batted an eyelid if Evra, Vidic and Ferdinand (age) together with Young, Anderson, Nani, Cleverley, Fabio (poor form) had been moved on.

Now three of those have already gone but none of the above list was in the striker department.

For good or ill Moyes has done a thorough review of the entire squad, allowing everyone a decent chance to prove their worth (with the possible exception of Zaha).

While it is a pity he didn't make speculative signings such as Kevin Strootman, Thiago Alcantara, Mesut Ozil or Ezequiel Garay as soon as he arrived, he is clearly working flat out to buy top talent with no expense spared this summer.

At least one of those signings will surely be up front and there could be some surprises.

While there have been rumours that Van Persie, Rooney and Hernandez could move away, it seems certain that Moyes would like to keep the first two.

But who will United want to sign?

The names most frequently mentioned are Edinson Cavani, Diego Costa and Radamel Falcao. Any one of those would be on a par with Sergio Aguero at Manchester City as currently one of the top five strikers in the world.

Ironically, in form Rooney or Van Persie could easily make that list.

However there are two imperatives as we see it: give Rooney a new contract; and sign one of the above three, irrespective of cost.

If United had a strike force of any three of Rooney, Van Persie, Cavani or Falcao (with the right support behind them) they would be nigh on unbeatable.

The striker United must sign is either Cavani or Falcao. Both would make the world of football sit up and take notice. Both are excellent target men, with great technical skill and consummate, intuitive finishing. Both are also hard workers for the team.

So, who should be let go?

Whether or not Van Persie stays, United must now let go of both Hernandez and Welbeck. The first would command a fee of at least £20 million and Welbeck would fetch at least £15 million from another Premier League club simply for being English.

But, why should they go?

In the case of Hernandez it is a mix of factors. First it seems right to reward his loyalty by letting him seek a move to where he would be guaranteed first team football. There is a raft of Spanish and Italian teams that would value his instinctive finishing and he would also be a realistic 'makeweight' in a swap to, say Monaco.

But sadly he is never likely to become a world class striker. Whether it is his natural style or desperation to prove himself, nowadays he seems to run around at high speed, but lacking the technical ball skill that a top striker needs.

When we come to Welbeck it must sadly be admitted that he will only ever be a third or fourth choice striker, which sums up how mediocre the England team is.

Danny has many qualities, including pace, courage, strength, defensive qualities and a willingness to work for the team. But he has had more than enough time to prove his credentials as a top striker and sadly keeps falling short.

The striking department 2014/5?

Even if only one of the above marquee targets was signed and Van Persie left United should not need to sign anyone else.

Why?

Well first, because the playing style and tactics of the team will continue to evolve. It's not about the tactics that other teams are using, it's about what formation best suits United's attacking flair and ability to counter-attack.

This makes the "number ten" position crucial as it was when Paul Scholes was in his pomp.

In the future United are likely to play 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 more often than not and both of these need a creative player around the penalty box. Assuming that Rooney stays they are spoilt for choice with Mata, Kagawa and Fellaini able to play that role as well. In future Januzaj can be added to that list.

But the final reason for letting players go is the talent coming through. When you consider that we are talking about a third or fourth striker or a "super-sub" there is an opportunity to blood young talent in the role.

There are several possibilities. The most obvious are:

Angelo Henriquez (currently on loan to Real Zaragoza and still only 19);

Nick Powell (also 19 and getting rave reviews at Wigan);

Will Keane (barely 21, on loan at QPR and still recovering his form after a serious ligament injury);

James Wilson (barely 18 but arguably the best all-round talent of the four and like Keane he is surely a future England striker).

And behind them Jack Barmby, Tom Lawrence and Ashley Fletcher are making people sit up and take notice.

So in conclusion, don't be surprised if United's first team squad of strikers next season is: Rooney, Falcao, Henriquez, Powell, Keane and Wilson. If Van Persie stays all the better, but then Henriquez would probably be released.

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Topics:
Premier League
Manchester United
Football

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