The season is drawing to a close and it looks like Manchester United have the Premier League title sewn up.
Whilst any season that United win the Premier League is a good one, this year has had a slightly disappointing end.
A month ago the Red Devils were serious contenders for a repeat of the famous treble-winning season of 1998/99. They were preparing to face Real Madrid in the second leg of the last-16 in the Champions League after taking an impressive draw away from the Bernabeu; 12-points clear at the top of the Premier League table and in with an excellent chance of reaching the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Sir Alex Ferguson has said that he believes the current squad is better than the one that won the treble in 1999. With four strikers to choose from in Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez, it certainly elicits memories of the famous four of Teddy Sheringham, Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke and Ole Gunner Solskjaer.
The addition of Van Persie has been seen by many as the catalyst for United's season. Some people wondered if this spelt the end for Rooney at United, but he has instead been deployed in a deeper role - and even on the wings and in central midfield on occasions.
While I think he isn’t as effective when played here, he has done a good job for the team and put in some cracking performances. He’s scored twelve goals this season, including a cracker against Norwich City, and is third in the assists chart behind Juan Mata and Steven Gerrard, with nine.
Van Persie has been sensational, scoring 20 goals and assisting eight so far this season including a hat-trick against Southampton in only his second start for the club. While he went through a dry patch recently, he managed to get on the scoresheet against Stoke City on Sunday. He also played a key contribution in the previous matches against Manchester City and Sunderland.
Welbeck, meanwhile, has improved significantly this season. He has a knack of knowing just when to play a fancy pass or do a bit of skill that might not change the game but will get the team out of a sticky situation. He’s full of running and quick both on and off the ball. He makes intelligent runs and has been deployed successfully out wide this season. The only thing he is lacking is goals. With only two to his name this season, including a fantastic header against Real Madrid, he admits himself it is something he is looking to improve in his game.
Obviously being a forward means it’s something he needs to work on to get amongst the other goalscorers, but it has to be noted that where he has been played this season has more than likely had an impact on his potential scoring chances.
Hernandez has been something of a super-sub this season. With eight goals to his name and a further two assists he has certainly had an impact on the team. He has always been a real poacher in the most positive sense of the word. He plays so far forward he’s almost behind the opponents' defence, and is always looking to breach their back line. Once he does he has the blistering pace to get himself into real scoring opportunities.
With there being such competition for places up front in the squad it’s no surprise that he has often found himself on the bench. When Ferguson has played him from the start he seems to have less of an impact so maybe he is the Solskjaer of the group; a player who can be bought on from the bench to change the complexity of the game.
All in all United's strike-force has been deadly this season. Particularly towards the beginning of the season when the defence was leaking goals, the whole front line got the team out of some tricky situations.
With Van Persie getting his United career off to a blistering start and Hernandez being the super-sub, United certainly haven’t lacked goals this year.
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