I think there is little doubt that we would all love the opportunity to spend the Ronaldo war chest of money for Sir Alex. It would be a pleasure. We would all pick a David Silva here, maybe a David Villa there. Some would plump for precocious talent such as Alexi Sanchez, or Douglas Costa. I would love any of those guys!
But at the moment ive got my scouting eye on one less fashionable player
Two years back i felt that United needed a 'big man' striker. A sort of Emile Heskey, but not completely shit. The comparison with the Villa player may well have given the ghost away as to whom im interested in! Well, two years ago that man was Dean Ashton. I crowed on about him day and night to my friends. Its not the fact that United essential need a big traditional striker, as we do not really play like that. However, it would be nice to have the option! The game at Anfield yesterday proved this. There is nothing wrong with employing a striker that can link and hold up play. A certain manager of Manchester City used to do it splendidly for us. But we have never had a power laden striker since Mark Hughes. We've had talisman like Cantona and Sheringham. We've had predators like Van Nistlerooy and Andy Cole. And we have had the flair merchants like Rooney and Dwight Yorke.
But i really want United to have that OPTION..just the possibility
Well two years on, and despite Dean Ashton scoring a magnificent overhead kick in front of the Stretford End that left Fergie and us drooling (he received a standing ovation for his goal), his career appears over after a shattered ankle. So the search starts again for big man, but with very good feet to match. Amazingly we only have to look as far as to the bloke occupying Ashton's old role at West Ham
For me, Carlton Cole is the most improved striker in the Premier League in the last 12 months. When he was at Chelsea they thought he had the talent to lead their frontline for many years to come. After sending him out on several unsuccessful loan deals they rightfully changed their mind. Good feet yes. Hit a barn door from 10 feet no.
A year ago i would not entertain the sight of Cole in a United shirt. But over time i have (and am still) changing my mind. His short cameos for England show a player that oozes confidence, skill and power. And his strike rate for a poor Hammers side is respectable. I wouldn't bring him in to be the primary striker at United, but assessing what we already have in Rooney, Owen and Berbatov, the squad is crying out for a fourth addition to the striking positions. Yes, Macheda and Wellbeck may be those players in the future, but the Manager's selection this season provides evidence that he does not see that as an option yet.
How good could Owen be feeding off a player that held the ball up well? Berba and Roo do not function well doing this. How interesting would it be to see a midfield three with wingers and some power up front. For a club like United it should at least be an option, but today it isn't. There may well be a premium to pay for Cole as he is English, but the bill would be well short of £20m. We could plump for Wolfsburg's Dzeko, but with the player nationality quota coming in i do not think it would be too clever.
Carlton Cole may not be the big name we all crave post Tevez & Ron. But football is sometimes about function. Functionality is what lost us the game against Liverpool and Burnley. It is the reason we lost the Champions League final to Barca. Im not saying lets lose our beautiful style of playing. Im just saying lets add a bit of power to it, allowing Berba and Roo to do all the fancy tricks and flicks.
He may not sell bucket-loads of shirts, but he could be our missing link.
Most disappointing thing about the match for me was that we allowed them to be more aggressive than us. Rio and Vidic looked shite scared of Torres. In fact, Ferdinand's challenge on the Spaniard for the goal was both weak and pointless. Ive defended him alot recent weeks but not anymore. He has to stand up now and be counted. He is a senior player and must improve his form.
Vidic also looks way short of his best. His first yellow was never a card but the ref had no choice for the second.
The score does not flatter Liverpool's performance on the day. Their midfield engine room out worked Carrick and Scholes..we just dont look like the same side without a bit of muscle. Owen Hargreaves will walk straight back into the team if he can stay fit. Maybe Fergie was right to sit on the £80m treasure chest and see how things pan out. The ginger genius is not good enough for these huge games anymore..im thinking David Silva? Modric? Players that will add that killer pass.
It appears the Scousers have the hex over us at the mo. We had no spark when going forward...i dont think we had a proper shot for 70 minutes. Roo looked like a player coming back from an injury and Berba's first touch was not as good as it can be. Only United player that can come out of the match with any credibility is Van Der Sar, who looked like a thousand Ben Fosters.
We have now let this pretty average side back into the title race, but more importantly it is an incentive to Arsenal to catch the pack. Todays performance was very much like the Champions League final against Barca...just a lack of energy and crispness. I accept that we will lose games through a season, but this performance will leave a bitter taste on the end of the tongue for a little while.
Dont you just hate football sometimes....im off for a good cry.
The team was finally in a silverware ascent after decades in the doldrums. Liverpool's grip of all things trophy-like was slipping, but there was no doubt as to who still held the bragging rights. As United experienced relegation in the 70s, the Scousers were going out in their own merry way winning multiple European Cups and any other competition they played in. They were the best. Were.
In 1994, Liverpool still felt they were the best. The cabinet was packed full of their glory. They felt that it would only be a short time that they would be on top again. We had Eric Cantona, but they had the 'Spice Boys'...Fowler, Redknapp. McManaman et al. They had also nabbed a certain young teenage talent, who had trained with United's youth academy...his name was Michael Owen. The future looked bright. So in good football tradition, they unveiled a makeshift banner to 'rub it in' a bit more. All that needed to be added was a pound of salt to the open wound.
The banner unveiled by Kopites that day is the stuff of legend to the Faithful now. It read the immortal phrase:
"Au revoir Cantona, come back when you've got 18 titles".
Well now its time to come back.
2009 is as equally important to us Red Devils as 1994 was. It has taken a mere 15 seasons to catch up with a record that, as a child i was told, would never be caught. United now have parity with Liverpool. Now the challenge is for who can get to number nineteen first.
Inspite of Liverpool's shocking destruction of us at Old Trafford last year, the fact is we still won the league. We can never irradicate that defeat. Many thought it was the turning of the tide..the passing of the baton back along the M62 motorway. The day that Liverpool turned up in United's backyard, to stomp their old, nearly forgotten authority on us...Rafa wasn't crazy at all..he was a genius!
Only a few months on since that day United have indeed claimed title 18, and have been to a second consecutive Champions League final. Liverpool totter on the brink of disaster after a string of defeats. They have an uphill task to qualify out of the Euro group stages, and sit below Sunderland in the league table. Benitez has stuck a noose around his neck, and has asked Sir Alex if he has got the skill to be the final executioner. Sounds all very dramatic? But it really is of the Spaniard's making. This is his screenplay. He wrote his fate.
A win for United would be a huge step toward title number 19. It may only be October and there will still be so much football to play. But would a crushing defeat be the final straw for Gilette and Hicks?
Tomorrow marks the day when we can return to Anfield to answer that banner of 1994. There will be no beachballs from us. However, there will be a cacophony of masks worn in honour of that banner. And those masks will be of one man:
The genius French Number 7 they left an open invitation for to return when his club met their challenge.
We still sing Eric's songs today. And that FACT is the biggest answer we can give the Scouse in response to their hollow bragging back in the 90's. We stepped up to the impossible challenge. Eric started the (beach)ball rolling.
So lets all become Eric for this game. It is a historic day that nobody in football thought would be possible back in 1994..certainly not me! We may win, lose or draw at Anfield on Sunday, but we should still celebrate the fact about how far the modern day Manchester United has come.
We all stood downstairs by the televisions before the game. This was because the game from Villa Park was being shown live. A bit of pre match entertainment we all thought. The game was exciting. Every heroic tackle by Villa's defenders was greeted with a cheer as if it were Rio or Vida. We felt the anticipation as Freidel made important saves. Surely it couldn't be? They were not going to lose AGAIN?
The final whistle led to joyous clapping and cheering, and a brief scream in the name of Martin ONeill. I wondered if one day we would be cheering ONeill as our manager. Who knows. We all skipped up the stairs to our seats. We were ready for a mauling.
United played some excellent stuff in the game. The passing was crisp and accurate. Giggs and Valencia owned the wing positions. It was the first time that Valencia truly showed what he MAY have to give to United. Strong, powerful and quick. Always willing to take his man on. Super un-nani-like. It was no surprise when we took the lead after Michael Owen cleverly deflected his header of Zat Knight. We were ready for a mauling.
Valencia's goal was excellent. Some good link play by Owen set the Ecuadorian off. He played a neat one-two with our skipper Nev (making a rare start) and the boy finished with aplomb. At 2-0, we were ready for a massive massive mauling!
But it never came.
Some of our passing was golden. Carrick and Anderson generally dominated the middle with the ball at their feet. However, it was a crude combination of a lazy Anderson tackle and a weak clearance from Nev which gifted Wanderers a way back into the game. Fitness has never been an issue at United, but it seems to be at the moment. The Brazilian midfielder in particular seemed to go from all action in the first hour, to totally on a different planet for the last half hour. I vented my spleen at him as he half hearted put a leg out to stop the Bolton player as he drove forward in the play that ended with a goal. It is not acceptable. Yes Neville made a mistake with his clearance, but Anderson just let him go...it reminded me so much of the Champions League final, as Iniesta skipped past him. He needs to sort that out, or he will be playing second fiddle to Owen Hargreaves very very soon.
We had to batten down the hatches as Bolton did their best 'Crazy Gang' Wimbledon stylee impression and sent high balls into the box. Thankfully it didn't work...just! A win is a win, and we all clapped the two teams off the pitch. Then..the scores came up on the board
Sunderland 1 Liverpool 0
The place went mad for 5 seconds. We then all skipped down the stairs to ground level, talking about what a great couple of hours it had been!
In the end Bolton will feel they could have had a point, but probably didn't deserve it as Megson admitted after the match (very big of him) It was promising to see the team playing some good football. All we need is a few additional goals now and we will be flying. Whether we will be entirely ready for a war at Anfield next week is still yet to be seen. The Scouse will be licking their wounds after 'Beachballgate' and they always play better against the big teams. Plus I'm sure they will unwrap Gerrard and Torres from the huge balls of cotton wool they are currently wrapped in to try and grab the points.
We know that United V City is the real Manchester derby, but Us V Liverpool is the true grudge match...the Super Classico of English football. And it is only a week a way.
The previous few months of footie banter have involved one topic that all United fans have an opinion about. The sort of opinion that is akin to a Marmite debate. Love it. Hate it. That subject is about who needs to wear Van Der Sar's pants when he is permanently unavailable
For me, it had to be Ben Foster. I defended him vehemently. Told people to wait and see. I told people about his former career as an outfield player, and how this made his kicking game amazing. How he tactically understood the role of the back four, and of course, his boundless confidence in his own ability.
Well its fair to say i have egg all over my face. Thank you Ben.
In the ten matches Foster has played for United this season he has unequivocally gone from almost defo United and England number one select, to sticking his reputation and career on the proverbial scrapheap. Its almost unimaginable to think how far his stock has fallen in just a couple of months - like he has gone into some unpredicted recession with a Wall Street crash around the corner and an economic goalkeeping depression to look forward to. He has absolutely blown 'it', whatever 'it' maybe.
Frankly I am shocked, but i shouldn't be surprised. He will be yet another butterfingered merchant in a long line of Post-Schmeichelist players who have failed to live up to the pressure of producing week to week uber-performance standards. Think Fabien Barthez, Think Mark Bosnich, Think Massimo Tiabi...actually don't!
The boy has talent I'm sure, but for me he is more Robert Green than Edwin Van Der Sar. If Foster was at a West Ham, his odd mistake would not get highlighted in the way it does at United. I watched Green concede a goal on his near post against Liverpool the other week, and all i heard was how great Torres was for scoring the toe poked smash and grab. No criticism was levelled at the keeper, despite the fact that he should of had the basic of 'covering the near post' within his remit that day. So for Foster's sake, maybe he should go to a team outside the big four, that is if he has true World Cup ambitions.
I think he has blown his chance at United now. SAF traditionally has had no record of patience with keepers in the past so why should he start now? The only worry is i do not see a glut of marquee goalies plying their trade around the world at the mo. Once upon a time there would always be 6 or 7 number ones who you would admire from afar, but i cant think of any at the moment. I would not be surprised if Fergie goes for an aged, experienced trooper, as he did when he nabbed Edwin from Fulham. Someone who has been there and done it already. Has that experience vital to playing at the highest level every week.
I feel empathy for Foster, but i have little sympathy. This was always gonna be the making or breaking of him. Its just sad that he didn't have that extra vavavoom when he got his wondrous chance.
Manchester United fan since the age of 9 when he saw Norman Whiteside curl the ball into a Wembley goal in the dying minutes.
He is an Old Trafford season ticket holder in the North Stand Tier 3...and cried tears of joy, on his knees with the many in Moscow.
Rob is a contributing author/editor at Man Utd blogzine 'The Faithful'