Any avid English Premier League fan would acknowledge Cristiano Ronaldo as the best player in the League, and perhaps the world. He has been in superb form all season and his goal against Liverpool last week took his tally for the current campaign to 34.
This means that he has broken George Best’s record for goals in midfield. Sir Alex Ferguson described his goal record as “phenomenal” and every opposition who hopes to take points off Manchester United must stop Ronaldo—United’s most potent attacker.
Notice that United’s main threat is no longer their traditional deadly strike partnership (Cole & Yorke , Rooney & Van Nisterooy) but a world-class winger in Ronaldo.
Tevez only has a dismal 15 goals to his name, while Rooney is no better at 13 goals this season. And not to mention the forever injured striker in Louis Saha who never succeed in getting a continuous run of games. It is hardly surprising now to find that the total goals tally of all three strikers cannot match Ronaldo’s phenomenal 34.
The reason: Manchester United do not have an out and out striker who can convert all the opportunities into goals. Any Manchester United fan who watches their games would be irate at how Rooney and Tevez squander away countless goal opportunities.
Even Sir Alex admitted that they were “too generous” in front of goal after the 1-0 triumph over Derby. It could have been a defeat if not for an excellent save from Foster and a wonder goal from Ronaldo.
The pre-season critique on Manchester United was right—they would struggle without a proper target-man. Yes, they are five points clear on top of the table right now with an incredible 64 goals. But they would have done much better and scored more goals if they had a world-class, out and out striker.
Imagine Fernando Torres at Manchester United. He would have scored 30 goals by now (consider how he scored 20 goals with limited goal opportunities at Liverpool) given the almost unlimited supply of the ball from Giggs, Ronaldo, Scholes, Rooney etc. and United’s strong attacking mentality.
The absence of a proper striker does not mean that United will lose the title race. Arsenal are going through a poor run now and their form suggests that they should be in a relegation battle rather than a title race.
For all the effective tactical decisions Avram Grant made to salvage a 2-1 win and three points, I believe that was a fluke and he is nothing better than a mediocre manager. I can only dream of Grant beating Fergie on mind games and overcoming that five-point deficit.
While Manchester United do not need an out and out striker to win the EPL this season, the same cannot be said for next season. Liverpool will have made strong additions to their squad, Arsene Wenger’s squad will be more experienced, and Chelsea should probably have a world-class manager.
United better watch out.