Up until England’s match with San Marino last night, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck hadn’t scored a goal at all this season. Now, 90 minutes later, both strikers came out with a brace under their belt after excellent individual performances, even if it was against the minnows of San Marino.
It’s not as if Manchester United have been struggling for goals in the Premier League this season, having scored the most in league so far with 17 in seven fixtures, but it cannot be underestimated how important that first goal of the season is for a striker.
This year is a testing time for Rooney at United. No longer is he indispensable thanks to the arrival of van Persie, who has been nothing short of superb so far this season. He has to prove himself, in much the same fashion as Evra does with the arrival of Buttner – and against Newcastle, we saw a glimpse of just how important he is to the team still.
It was never simply about Rooney’s goals. His talent shines when he has the opportunity to get involved in as much of the game as possible. The 4-3-3 diamond against Newcastle gave him the creative freedom to do that – surging forward one minute yet tracking back and sliding at the feet of Ben Arfa the next. They say variety is the spice of life and Rooney’s game epitomises that – his unpredictability is probably his strongest asset.
As for Danny Welbeck, he really needed those goals after a howler of a miss against Newcastle after rounding Steve Harper probably dented his confidence. Last season was great for Danny – he was the preferred partner to Rooney and the interlink play between the pair was reminiscent of Yorke and Cole at times (especially one goal against Everton in the 4-4 at Old Trafford).
The touch, poise, control and first touch of Welbeck really aren’t characteristics normally associated with English strikers, and it makes him massively unique. With Javier Hernandez now back amongst the goals too, scoring again last night against Guyana, Welbeck knows he has got a fight on his hands to get into a team brimming with attacking talent.
Before the season started, fans avoided the comparison with the 1999 or 2008 strike force but with all four strikers among the goals now, a goal storm is certainly brewing.
I’ve no doubt that Robin van Persie will be our out-and-out top scorer this season. You can see in his general play that he is avoiding getting involved too deep in order to make sure he is up top, ready to score. It wasn’t something that he did at Arsenal but that was because they depended on him heavily in the build up play too. Now that Rooney and Kagawa are playing behind him, he doesn’t need to do that and it can only mean more goals for the prolific Dutchman.
As for Wayne Rooney, goals won’t be his priority this season but it is not to say he won’t still net a fair few. He will want to be a real lynch pin this season and involve himself as much as possible and I think that can only be a positive thing for United. The only real way we could have got Rooney and van Persie playing as out-and-out strikers would be in a 4-4-2 but with us making a move away from rigid width for a narrow, ball playing formation, it wouldn’t play to our strengths having both playing up top.
I see Danny Welbeck getting more game time than Javier Hernandez this season simply because of his ability with the ball at his feet. Hernandez is a goal poacher, and a mighty good one at that, but his general link up play has always lacked. When we are in need of a goal late on in a game, there isn’t anybody better to bring on that Chicharito, that remains the same, but I don’t think we will see a repeat of the dizzy heights of the Mexican’s first season at United.
With our defence likely to be unstable all season with injuries that will no doubt keep cropping up, the fact that we have four strikers all scoring goals is a godsend. After we lost the title on goal difference last year, Sir Alex was always likely to bolster his attacking options and if United’s early season goal streak is anything to go by, then it is unlikely to come down to goal difference this year, especially when you look at Manchester City’s disjointed attack.
Chelsea have started the season in typically fantastic form but they always do. United’s first “big” fixture will come when we pay a visit to Stamford Bridge in October and with six goals in the corresponding game last year, hopefully our new fantastic four can bring another shower of goals this season.