Manchester United have a striker crisis

Alex Ferguson’s transfer dealings during the summer pissed a lot of Manchester United fans off – people thought he was mad not to buy a striker, mad to send away Rossi, mad to splash 14 mil on Carrick instead of spending that money on a defensive midfielder and a striker, mad for selling Ruud van Nistelrooy.

This season, Ferguson took risks. One of them has paid off, with Manchester United’s excellent squad spirit and pre-season preparations helping them to the top of the Premiership table. Evra, Vidic and Scholes have a major role to play here, and for this Ferguson must be praised.

Another of those risks has backfired, even if no damage has been done so far. Ruud’s departure meant that Manchester United were restricted to two main strikers, of which one was coming back from injury (Rooney) and the other (Saha) was fairly injury-prone himself. Of the backups, two (Solksjaer and Smith) were returning from long-term injuries, and the third was a young kid with little first-team experience (Rossi).

Rossi was loaned out, Solskjaer warmed the bench as Ferguson, United and a legion of fans waited for Alan Smith to recover his fitness, and then his form.

But the kid’s not flying fit, and after a handful of games he’s definitely off-pace. He needs regular games but the sad reality is that if you are going to choose between Solskjaer and an off-form Smith you’d go with Ole for his intelligence and positioning.

And because Smith needs games, Ferguson has accepted loan offers for the striker, with Cardiff and Leeds hoping to get Alan Smith playing for them this season in the Championship. United have accepted Cardiff’s offer, but Smith wants to stick around, and considering the pride Smith has (this is a striker who was once toyed with as backup to Owen and Rooney before Crouch, Defoe and company came along), he might just stay.

But with only 2 strikers with any serious pace and penetration, Manchester United now have little option but to wait for Rossi to return from Newcastle.

Who will support Rooney and Saha? The obvious names are Ronaldo and Giggs, with Solskjaer likely to be limited to emergency service. In midfield Fletcher can cover for Ronaldo on the right, while Park is due to return from injury soon.

Short on numbers? If only we could stay fit till January now…

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