1999 – Yorke. Cole. Solskjaer. Sheringham – Premier League, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League winners.
2008 – Rooney, Ronaldo, Tevez, Berbatov – Premier League and UEFA Champions League winners.
2012 – Rooney. Van Persie. Hernandez. Welbeck – ?????
“In 1999 I had Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the four best strikers in Europe. We are going towards that now.” – Sir Alex Ferguson
Attack, attack, attack. It is a chant that still reverberates from the walls of Old Trafford to this day. The memories of 1999 live fresh in the mind when the attacking prowess of our ‘famous four’ drove the team towards the most celebrated year in our history. Fast forward 13 years and we find ourselves staring a strike force which oozes strength, depth and ability.
Last season, when Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck were on song, they played just like Yorke and Cole did in 1999. They always knew what the other was doing without even looking and moved the ball around with consummate ease.
Wayne Rooney had a prolific season despite not playing to his best for the full campaign but the signing of Kagawa means that he will be freed up to play solely as the deep lying forward that he naturally prefers. We won’t see him drop too deep too often this season and I think it can only bring the best out of him.
Danny Welbeck grew massively as a player in only his first full season at United and a better-than-most performance in Euro 2012 would of done him no harm. His opportunities may well be limited due to the arrival of RVP but his obvious desire to play for United will mean his hunger to score goals won’t disappear. I see him as the Teddy Sheringham of the bunch.
The Yorke and Cole goal against Barcelona at the Nou Camp was the best example of their partnership, which was almost telepathic at times. Although I do not think that we have a partnership of that quality right now, Rooney and van Persie have all the personal attributes to make it happen.
The signing of Robin van Persie was unexpected and unnecessary in comparison to other holes in the squad, yet it has already had such a profound impact on United without even playing, that I am now convinced it was a masterstroke by Sir Alex.
Few signings from our Premier League era compare to the magnitude of this – Cantona, Ferdinand and Veron all spring to mind – but the signing of RVP carries an extra aura around it and makes our strike force the most dangerous in the league on paper.
Between them, Rooney and van Persie got over 5% (57) of all the goals scored in the Premier League last season. I genuinely believe that Rooney and van Persie can bring the best out of each other and if van Persie getting the number 20 shirt is anything to go by, we are in for a striking treat.
“I don’t know what makes me effective as a substitute. I don’t have the answer.” – Javier Hernandez
Olé Gunnar Solskjaer was the most famous holder of that squad number. Still to this day my favourite United player, his ability to get a goal from the bench is something that will never be forgotten but may well be repeated and even bettered. Chicharito is already the second most prolific substitute goalscorer for United, behind Olé, after only two seasons at Old Trafford.
His blistering pace, movement and finishing ability make him the perfect predator in and around the box and his happy go lucky attitude is infectious. Few players have created such a warmth around them in such a short space of time, much like Olé did, but his ability to find a goal when necessary (for example – 2012: Chelsea away, 2011: Everton home) means he will remain a very important part to the striking jigsaw this year.
Whether or not these four players will reap such rewards and spearhead the campaign like the famous four did back in 1999 remains to be seen. These strikers certainly have the individual ability to replicate it but it is how they link up together that will decide if they can do it or not. Suffice to say, Sir Alex certainly hasn’t rested on his laurels after losing the title on goal difference – I don’t think that will be happening again this year.