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Striking Questions and Nicolas Anelka

The press has been awash with rumours that United are planning a swoop on Nicolas Anelka, which could either be a straight purchase or a swap deal depending on where you read it. We also got some comments for the last post, where people gave some of their opinions on whether Anelka would or would not fit our setup.

I had a few opinions of my own. Well, more than a few to be more exact. So I thought I could write an entire post about it. Anyway, we’ll also deal with a little more of the striking conundrum that we face here apart from discussing Le Sulk.

Of course, we are not here to discuss the veracity of the rumours that link Anelka with OT.

First of all, Anelka might have been unsettled by the departure of Sam Allardyce from Bolton. (You could always bet on him getting unsettled at the drop of a hat. So no real rocket science there.) In the comments to the last post, there were a few misgivings about him fitting in our setup. Yes, he is terribly ambitious and would like to get back to playing Champions League football. He is also known to be a troublemaker. Something Ferguson, for one, doesn’t take too lightly. So it could be fair to think his presence might be too unsettling for the squad, and Sir Alex might be too averse to taking a chance.

But we also know that Sir Alex is a great man manager. One who is known for getting the best out of players despite their non-footballing inadequacies till the point, where it might get too unmanageable for him. I would think that at 28, we have a much fitter striker than say, either Saha or Smith. He is a good finisher and has good movement. When Big Sam could get him to fit into his 4-5-1 formation which demands a lot of discipline and selflessness and very little service from the midfield in open play, our formation and fluid play creates a lot more chances, something Anelka will relish. More than creating trouble, he is a player that needs to be loved and made to be felt wanted. Now, he would be foolish to believe that he is the sole important player if he were to come to a star-studded team like United. And Sir Alex might make that clear to him in the beginning.

So should he be signed? If we get the financial backing and confidence from the Glazers, and if a good deal is in place, we must go for a proven and a world class striker. One may rattle off names like Berbatov, Eto’o, Torres, Villa and so on. Although, save for Berbatov, we cannot know for sure that this world class striker that we are blowing our money on is going to set the league on fire. But if the club is looking for bargain buys either in the form of a swap deal or anything less than 8 million, then Anelka is a much better bet than say, Owen.

I read in the Daily Mail that Sammy Lee was looking at a swap deal with either Saha or Smith and Richardson as make-weights for the deal. Now we know this is not going to be necessarily true but as a hypothesis it is useful to consider that Smith and Richardson for Anelka would be a very good bit of business.

Now going back to the actual position that is the focal point of this article, I had exchanged IM conversations with Ahmed, where he asked me (after the news of the trio of purchases that we made) if we needed to buy any other player. I suggested that the purchase of Anderson and Nani still doesn’t entirely solve the conundrum facing the striker’s position.

At this state we have some tough decisions to make. Either not make any more purchases over the summer and go with whatever we have, hinging our hopes on the fitness of Saha and blooding Rossi in (hoping he would turn out good). Smith could be the back up. This, I would stop short of terming it ‘brave’, but quite practical and a possible approach Fergie could take.

The other possibility is buying a ‘proven’ striker (something which is again subjective and up to who the team management deem as fit to be bought) who will push Saha, Rossi and Smith down the pecking order, which might sound a tad Chelsea-esque, in the sense that we might be frustrating the life out of youngsters like Rossi and failing to give them a fair run out in the Premiership. It might solve our striker problems, but would it be fair on the youngsters? We will have to wait and see.

So those are some of the questions that still linger in my mind and we will have to only wait and see what holds for us in the days to come.



  1. Liam O'Kelly

    June 2, 2007 at 4:34 am

    I think a fit Saha is better than Anelka but you can never count on Saha being fit physically or “mentally and Anelka isn’t as injury prone as Saha. You never really know with Anelka because if we do sign him and Saha is fit at the start of next season and keeps Anelka out of the side then what will Anelka’s reaction be? I think that if Anelka is signed then Dong and maybe Rossi should be loaned to a team where they will get first team premiership football like Derby or Sunderland because neither of them really have much experience in the premiership.

  2. Jordan

    June 2, 2007 at 4:59 am

    I think we’ve spent the money we need. Sell a few players and that should be our transfer season. Admittedly it’s not as interesting for the fans but we managed one of our highest scoring seasons with what we have. Let Rossi have a couple of run ins and see what happens. I think we need to give the youngsters a chance before they bugger off.

  3. BootifullGame

    June 2, 2007 at 5:11 am

    Its clear that both Saha and Anelka bring their own problems.
    Like you say, Saha’s fitness and Anelka’s state of mind.
    If Saha or Smudger do leave, then I think there are better options available to replace them. I think Anelka could be a risk.
    Huntelaar or Berbatov seem unlikely, as do the likes of Eto’o, Torres, and Tevez given our recent spending.
    Someone like D.Bent might be more in the price range that Fergie might have in mind. I don’t know whether that would be a good thing or not but better than Owen or Anelka, i think. Gudjohnsson might be an option too.
    Pure speculation really, I wouldn’t want to second guess Fergie at the moment.

  4. Ahmed Bilal

    June 2, 2007 at 7:10 am

    we’re good as things are.

    Should sell a couple of players, although knowing Ferguson we might not 🙂

    We’re pretty well covered all over the pitch now, even in central midfield.

  5. Keith Moses Kaira II

    June 2, 2007 at 11:15 am

    WE should sign Anelka. then sale a good number of our “Extra players”

    We have a squad of at least 40 players now. If you include the loan returnees to our new men and a potential striker signing.

  6. Dexter

    June 3, 2007 at 1:57 am

    IMO I think that we should get Viduka for free and rotate him and Saha.
    Viduka much much better than Smudger.
    Plus we have Seppe who IMO is the new Solsjeger(donno the spelling)

  7. Dash

    June 3, 2007 at 3:14 am

    Looking at the set of attacking players ManU have right now: Giggs, Rooney, Scholes, Ronaldo, Nani, Anderson, there is one obvious deficiency that springs out. Each of these players needs a fair amount of space to operate in. In short they’ll play the best not in the D but the area outside in the final third which basically is the rationale for the need of another striker. Therefore the argument of playing Rooney as a sole striker does not go well down with me since his skill and tenacity in running with the ball will be underutilized in this scenario.

    Saha for all his deficiencies (and moaning) has two big advantages: he is fast and he operates in closed spaces in the D intelligently (making runs, putting layoffs). Add to that clinical finishing and one is looking at a handful of candidates in world football; all of whom seem out of ManU’s budget right now.

    Anelka for all I have seen in Bolton and elsewhere has everything that Saha has except the ability to hold the ball and bring others players into action. He goes on this solo trip of his far too often. That is simply not done.

    I would therefore give Saha one more season, while at the same time blooding young Rossi in – whose only deficiency as touted by pundits is in the physical aspect. While it does not entirely solve our problems, it is better to try out something for a year or half with the current setup and if not working splash out next transfer window than try to plug in something not entirely sure of the outcome.

    In the same vein, for all the admiration I have for him, Smith has to go as and when a new striker comes in.

  8. Keith Moses Kaira II

    June 3, 2007 at 11:16 am

    Anelka by the way is way better than Saha…Always has been always will be…Saha should only be kept next season as cover for a new CF..

  9. Jatin Parmar

    June 3, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    Utd could sell saha to lyon and grab 10 million and thn swoop for torres or go for anelka for 8 million though he is happy at the reebok stadium, it’l be surprising if he turns down a chance to move…AGAIN…..however new rumours have it that javier pedro saviola is on his way to Man Utd…which would be a great signing….he could come under 5 million or even on loan

  10. Little Dud

    June 3, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    Would Javier Saviola not be available on a free?

  11. BootifullGame

    June 3, 2007 at 8:15 pm

    I agree Little Dud, Saviola would be another great signing. Just heard this morning that United might be sniffing around and immediatley thought that sounded good. We could let Saha go and raise a few quid in the process too.
    Saviola has got a great scoring pedigree and could even finally fulfill his potential at a club like United. Would certainly prefer Saviola over the likes of Anelka, Bent and Owen or even Viduka. He’s got a touch of class about him, Saviola.

  12. Fazz

    June 3, 2007 at 10:22 pm

    I am all for trusting either Rossi or Dong in a team. Surrounded by Scholes, Giggs, Rooney, Ronaldo and Carrick I think anyone can perform. We need to Give them a chance before they decide to leave for lack of opportunities.

  13. aghil

    June 3, 2007 at 10:50 pm

    Has anyone heard about the “Saviola” rumour??? Personally, if there was a striker coming in, I would be very happy to see Saviola at OT. Free transfer and not much risk. I think he’s a much better option than Anelka.

  14. Dash

    June 4, 2007 at 1:37 am

    Saviola is a much classier player than either Saha or Anelka but his signing would still pose a few questions:

    1. If Rossi is lacking in physique for the Prem why is Saviola any different?

    2. We would then really lack air power upfront. Apart from Ronaldo to an extent none of our attacking players are great in the air.

  15. Little Dud

    June 4, 2007 at 1:54 am

    Dash – would you rather Man Utd bought someone who compliments and contrasts our other strikers or someone who is just really good at what they do?

    Nicola Zigic is even taller than Peter Crouch but his skill with the ball is attrocious. Is it worth using up a spot in the starting XI just so we would score the occasional set piece?

    I would much rather United bought a player who is strong build, but has skill and pace.

  16. BootifullGame

    June 4, 2007 at 3:37 am

    I dont think Rossi is lacking physique, or Saviola.
    There have been plenty of successful players in the Prem who are small. Our own Paul Scholes isnt exactly tall and he’s never suffered because of it. Ronaldo, Scholes, Giggs and Saha are all adept at heading, especially Saha, and not to mention Rio, Vidic and Brown.
    And actually, Saviola IS quite good in the air. You’re assuming that because he’s small he can’t use his head. He’s got great spring for a half pint.
    I think Rossi should be given a chance this year, becasue, as anyone who has seen him play will testify, he’s a proper natural finisher with real ability.

  17. Pingback: Striker Watch: Javier Saviola | Red Rants

  18. Keith Moses Kaira II

    June 4, 2007 at 10:31 am

    Dash, who can you say Rossi and Saviola lack prem physique when Owen
    and Defoe are premier league stars (Rossi’s size mates) and are all smaller than Saviola?

  19. Red Ranter

    June 4, 2007 at 10:45 am

    Speaking of physique, I think a lot has also got to do with acclimatising with the surroundings. Owen was bred in Liverpool. His pace and undoubted talent early on coupled with his ability to adapt to the physical needs helped him at a very early age.
    Rossi is not proven at England (in the EPL) yet. Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves with him.

    Other than that, it also has a lot to do with adaptability.

    Saha is good in the air. His headers are powerful and he has a good spring in his jump. Although we don’t have too many other options as far as aerial strength is concerned.

    Good point you make about physique – although I disagree on the thing about Rossi’s physique.

    As I mentioned in the comment to Keith, adaptability is the key.

  20. Dash

    June 4, 2007 at 11:28 am

    [Little Dud]
    Skill, Strength, Pace – I am assuming skill here refers to skill on the ball and goalscoring rather than only the latter. The number of players right now falling in this category can be counted with fingers of my hand and they don’t come cheap. Yes, ideally I would like Eto in the team too 🙂

    Red Ranter I think answers one aspect of your query. The other aspect is actually fitness to an extent. Have posted some thoughts on that in the Saviola post.

    [Red Ranter]
    Mistake on my part. Saha is decent in the air but I kind of assumed we are selling him if someone new comes in 🙂

    And yeah, adaptibility to the nature of the game is the key though I disagree on the part that Saviola is good in the air. Haven’t seen him score goals or layoff many balls with his head. But then I haven’t seen all his games (sevilla, monaco, river plate ). So might be mistaken here.

  21. Ahmed Bilal

    June 4, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    No Anelka move (

  22. Keith Moses Kaira II

    June 5, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    I’m not convinced by Red Ranter’s answer. Owen is a small player. Growing up in Liverpool didn’t change this. And he is a star in the Premiership. Saviola is 5 ft 6. Big than him, as first and far more skilfful. If Owen can survive. On footballing terms alone so can Saviola. The only thing that would disturb him is language and culture. Not the football or physical side of the game.

    [Red Ranter]
    I agree with you about adapting being key. But only in terms of language and culture. not the playing of the game. And definitely not about physique. When a player has sublime skills added with real pace like a Saviola. Physique is largely irrelevant.

    For example, the two times Rossi played for us in the premiership, in his natural position he didn’t look out of his depth. Due to his skill and intelligence as a player. So I don’t buy this wait and see or he is too small for the premiership approach to his talent most fans have. The lad has skill and intelligence and his pace is reasonable. Plus he can finish. In a free flowing side like United, with powerful forwards like Rooney or Saha to play alongside. I can’t see him having trouble adapting to the premership. His formative years as a footballer have been in England. If Owen and Defoe can survive, so can he. And so can a 5ft 6 Saviola.
    (I’m sorry that I sound like a broken record on that aspect…)

    How come most of you seem to be writing off Dong? Without having seen him properly tested in a United shirt like he will be enxt pre-season?

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