When Wayne Rooney, Shinji Kagawa, Robin Van Persie, Danny Welbeck, Javier Hernandez are your attacking options, prospects certainly seem very bright. But how do you play them over the course of the season to gain the maximum benefits? What should determine which attacking combinations to use at what time?
1. Rooney + Van Persie
This pairing is expected to be United’s primary strike force across the season, although this depends on fitness and any possible injuries they may have. In addition to this, not all strike pairings can fit every game so this striking pair will have to be tweaked at times for different reasons. Both strikers possess the pace, power, and the requisite striking prowess to haul in the goals (and possibly, the title). They are both technically gifted and can work well for each other but they are yet to fully work together this season. They had a few minutes at Goodison Park and Old Trafford but more playing time together will bring out the best of the pair. Unfortunately, Rooney’s absence for about a month, due to the thigh injury he sustained during last Saturday’s home win over Fulham, has hampered the learning process a bit but the lengthy season should allow them to gel and recreate the deadly Cole-Yorke partnership back in 1999 that fuelled the magical Treble achievement.
From a tactical point of view, this pair would, more often than not, require the presence of Kagawa for the supply through the middle meaning the team shape could be a very attack minded but defensively worrying 4-3-1-2.
2. Van Persie + Kagawa
The home game against Fulham provided an opportunity for the two players to play together for the first time and , truth be told, they linked up pretty well on a few occasions. Perhaps, the “apparent” understanding may be drawn from their individual footballing experiences so far. Both Arsenal and Dortmund seem to have similar fluid styles of play. Thus, Kagawa, who may be perceived by Van Persie as a Fabregas or even a Sneijder (from Van Persie’s experience with the Dutch national team) based on technical ability alone, would easily understand how to move and receive a good pass. This analysis ties in perfectly with Kagawa’s recent calls for his team mates to pass the ball in a more progressive manner. The Van Persie- Kagawa combination could prove very effective for the team when it is used judiciously.
On a tactical level, this pairing would require the use of some solidity in midfield, i.e. something similar to the use of Cleverley and Anderson against Fulham, to allow the creative juices of the front men (especially Kagawa) to flow freely to the Man United’s benefit. This combination would inadvertently point to the use of Rooney either from the bench or in a wide role (preferably down the left) to give precision which has not been too evident in the performances of Young and Nani.
At face value, it is quite a collection of attacking talent for Manchester United but not getting the getting mix right will also not produce the desired results. Sir Alex Ferguson must bring his skills to the table and manage these resources effectively. There will certainly be starters (the likes of Rooney and Van Persie) and those who would have to make more league appearances from the bench (Welbeck and Hernandez). Those two can be assured of more playing time in the cup games and in more “manageable” league matches as they are still in the learning curve and they will certainly command more starting positions in the near future.
We wanted the quality signings and we now have them. Let’s see how we blend them into a possible title-winning mixture as the season progresses…
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