Louis Saha is injured, again. And while Gill says that it’s just a slight knock (trashing reports that Saha would be out for the whole 2007/2008 season), Saha’s persistent injury problems pose Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United a few problems.
One – who will fill the 3rd striker berth for Manchester United in the run-in to May?
Last year, you could argue that the team was tired and injuries contributed to United’s poor performances at the San Siro and at Wembley. This year, we have a stronger and more experienced squad but we’re still short of strikers (no Larsson, no Solskjaer) and while Tevez and Rooney are young, injury to either one of them could dampen our chances for silverware this season.
In short, we need a 3rd striker to rotate with Tevez and Rooney (and no, this doesn’t mean using Ronaldo as a support striker, I’m talking about someone who can come off the bench and change games). Saha hasn’t done that job for us since early last year, and one feels (regardless of Gill’s assurances) that Saha will not do that this season either.
However, David Gill has also gone on record as saying that Manchester United will not be buying any players this January, which I feel is quite smart as we have enough players. However, it is time to either to bring in someone on loan (Gill said purchases, not transfers) or give a couple of games to younger strikers and see if they can make the grade.
Or we could just keep pushing Nani and Anderson further forward and wait for Scholes to come back.
Two – what the hell do we do about Saha?
Value for money he is not – for the transfer fee and the wages paid to him (plus the medical bill), he really hasn’t delivered much in terms of performances. Sure, he scores whenever he plays but in 3 years he’s not played much. He’s not going to get any younger – players become more injury-prone as they get older and at this point, relying on Saha to get fit and go on a consistent run for Manchester United next season is a pipe dream. It could happen, yes, but I wouldn’t want United’s management to shape their plans for next season hinged on this hope.
Ferguson could keep Saha around, which would mean that we keep paying him and get nothing out of it, or he could try to cut his losses, sell Saha and bring in someone else. And therein lies the main problem – which club would be willing to a) pick up the wages of a top-four club striker who is always injured and b) pay us good money for a striker who will be 30 in August 2008 and is…always injured?
Yes, yes, I know you guys are thinking ‘Newcastle United‘, but I doubt that Mike Ashley is that dumb. I’d say Sunderland but I expect better from Keano, so it’s probably Harry or off to France / Italy for Saha sooner or later. Too bad we won’t earn a lot on him, but if he can finance a new right-back (if Brown leaves we need someone to come in, unless Simpson, the Brazilian kid, O’Shea and Nev are going to be our 4 picks, which would be ridiculous but cost-effective), great, otherwise he will free up funds for wages and what not.
It’s time for Ferguson to decide now what Manchester United do with Saha. Loyalty to players is a major feature of Manchester United’s tradition (Smith is the most recent beneficiary of that) but for Manchester United’s sake, Saha cannot be relied upon again.