And then things went south.
Louis Saha had a good start to last season, but the goals dried up (as did his fitness), and he was subsequently ruled out for the second half.
Giuseppe Rossi looked set to be unleashed on the EPL, but Alex Ferguson sent him on his way to Villarreal...who are surely rubbing their hands together after acquiring one of Europe's rising stars.
Wayne Rooney—injured. Solskjaer—retired. Alan Smith—to Newcastle.
Then there was the acquisition (just) of Carlos Tevez, who has been thrust into action a lot earlier than intended. Saha, for his part, is coming to fitness slowly...but how long will that last?
The bottom line: Fergie needs someone, and he needs someone quick.
A Larsson-type loan would be ideal, but it's unlikely that Sir Alex would be able to call upon a world-class forward so suddenly.
So what does he do?
With Nicolas Anelka signing a new deal at the Reebok until 2011 and the Friday deadline drawing nearer, he may have to wait until January. As this evening's 5 p.m. UEFA Champions League draw approaches, here's my take on Ferguson's potential wish list—whether for the next two days or for January:
1. Dimitar Berbatov
This man is pure class.
His first touch, his finishing, his pace, his strength—Berbatov seems to have it all.
Rumours are rife that he has fallen out with manager Martin Jol at Tottenham—and things don't seem at all right over White Hart Lane at the moment.
Berbatov would be perfect for Fergie, who already has the strikers to play off the front man—Rooney and Tevez—but needs someone who can play up top, almost van Nistelrooy-esque.
The bad news: United would have to break the bank to get Berbatov—$40 to $50 million are the figures quoted.
2. Jermain Defoe
This would really be about the convenience factor.
Defoe would more than likely be available if United enquired. The problem could be that the price for United might be higher than the price for Everton or Blackburn.
There's no doubting that Defoe can score goals—and why he's constantly on the bench at Tottenham is beyond me. At about $16 million, a man of his ability would be a steal.
3. Michael Owen
Maybe not right now—but hopefully by the time January rolls around.
If Owen has reached the 10-15 goal mark by then, he'll have answered the questions regarding his fitness and his ability to stay healthy. When he's on, this man is world-class—he's proved it with Liverpool, the national team, and Real Madrid (where he notched 16 goals in just 41 appearances).
For now, Owen has pledged allegiance to Newcastle—but a bid of $20 or $30 million might tempt the new Newcastle owner come January.
4. Samuel Eto'o
There's a new star striker in town at Barcelona—and it hasn't sat well with the self-centric Eto'o.
Frank Rijkaard can surely no longer tolerate Eto'o's behaviour...so why not send him on to someone who can?
Sir Alex Ferguson has dealt with Eto'o's type before, and will waste no time laying down the law. And let's not forget that Eto'o is a world-class player.
He started with Real Madrid's B team, moved to Real Mallorca, then convinced Barcelona to shell out $32.7 million. His debut was okay—he only scored 5 goals in the first half!
Eto'o would be ideal for United—but will Fergie be willing to pay the fee?
Only time will tell.
5. David Trezeguet
The Juventus superstar has plenty of accolades to his credit.
A World Cup, a European Championship (he scored the winner in the final), and two Serie A titles speak for themselves. 34 goals for his country in 69 appearances is as impressive as you'll find in the modern game, and Trezeguet maintains a strong partnership with Thierry Henry at the international level.
Trezeguet's great heading ability would be a major plus for cross-happy United. What's more, Tevez and Rooney would be great foils for the world-class frontman.
Due to his age, 30, Trezeguet would cost United about $25 million—but it may be too late for the aging goal machine to make his mark on English football.
So there you have it—this would be my list if were Fergie. Then again, I have no idea what's going through his mind.
I wouldn't be surprised if Sir Alex waits until January and uses the next few months to complete some scouting on the players he's actually considering—as opposed to rushing into a deal just for the sake of making it.
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