Man Utd's Strikers Must Bring Focus Back to EPL Title Race
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International breaks can come at either the most convenient or the most inconvenient times for football clubs and players.
It remains to be seen which side the coin lands on for Manchester United following their mixed start to the EPL season.
David Moyes will have hoped to have pushed on from that point and he will surely have been disappointed that the international break has interrupted United building up a head of steam.
There is no denying that the club have, on paper, a wealth of attacking talent at their disposal. However, not all the cogs in the machine appear to be working together smoothly just yet.
So, how did United’s four main strikers fare on international duty?
Putting a summer of apparent discontent behind him, Wayne Rooney has now settled into the season. Scoring in both of England's FIFA World Cup qualifiers, he buzzed around the pitch with an air of confidence and determination.
Rooney revelled in his position as the fulcrum of the England side. Not only did he provide a focal point up front, his link-up play and vision was exemplary, he kept possession well and also showed a deftness of touch and great tenacity.
His was an all-round performance of the type not seen too often since the post-Cristiano Ronaldo/pre-Robin van Persie seasons when United relied on him so heavily.
Rooney finished the qualifying campaign having scored in every match that he played in. His quick reaction to Danny Welbeck’s parried shot against Montenegro and cutely guided header versus Poland both reflect a player in fine form.
Frequently asked to cover a role for both club and country that Wayne Rooney has famously voiced his displeasure at, as reported in The Guardian, Danny Welbeck put in a hard-working shift on the left-hand side of England’s attack.
The young Mancunian made himself a nuisance all over the pitch in both matches, unfortunately for both sides in the match versus Poland. Combining a goal threat with sterling defensive tracking back, he could have scored a hat-trick of goals but fluffed his lines, and chances went begging that could have calmed England’s nerves.
Welbeck plays football with the air of someone who is just happy to play and will play wherever he is asked to.
Depending on the tactics that Roy Hodgson chooses to deploy, with the current form Daniel Sturridge is in and Wayne Rooney’s importance to the team, it may be that he is asked to play out of position often.
Whether this versatility could hamper his career as a top-class striker remains to be seen.
The spectre of injury has made fleeting appearances for the Dutch forward this season. He missed the Manchester derby defeat with a thigh strain and, according to the Mirror.co.uk, he had to have painkilling injections prior to the match against Sunderland for a toe injury.
The striker thought that he would not be ready for the FIFA World Cup qualifier against Hungary on Friday night.
His fears were allayed as he left the field after an hour, having scored a hat-trick in the Netherland’s 8-1 rout. In doing so, he wrote himself into the Dutch goal-scoring record books as the nation's top scorer with 41 goals, overtaking Patrick Kluivert.
Van Persie will be hoping that his pain subsides and that he can bring this form back to the EPL, where he has made a much slower start than last season.
Javier Hernandez probably has most to fear within United’s striking ranks at the moment. He has been used sparingly so far by David Moyes.
The form of his national side has also been a worry and he endured a torrid time over the weekend.
In the first of the weekend’s double headers—a must-win game against Panama—Hernandez combined well with Orribe Peralta all through the first half, playing a part in his team-mate’s first goal.
But he also contributed to the match with a shocking penalty miss. Raul Jimenez’s late, spectacular bicycle kick gave the Mexicans some hope of qualification.
Against Costa Rica, Hernandez joined the match as a second-half substitute. Unfortunately, his main contribution here was to scuff a simple shot towards an open goal, which somehow just squirmed in. The goal was ruled offside in any event.
Mexico were granted a slight reprieve with the chance of qualification for the World Cup through a playoff against New Zealand. Javier Hernandez will have made the long trip back home hoping that this second chance will signal that his luck will turn soon.
If David Moyes can harness some of the power and prowess shown individually by Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie in the last week, it bodes well for the champions.
Keeping Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez happy might be a little more difficult.
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