Dimitar Berbatov's and Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez's roles in the Manchester United team have being argued to be too similar for both to be effective in the same line-up. A lot has been said about the need for both strikers to complement each other—in fact, this very same argument was made in the Rooney-Tevez partnership and led to the exit of Tevez.
In hindsight, the verdict was wrong. Rooney and Tevez can play together. One only need watch Tevez playing the out-and-out striker role as he does for Manchester City and imagine Rooney slotting in behind him as he has done brilliantly this season for United.
Is it possible a similar mistake is being made with the Chicharito-Berbatov partnership? Are rumors of a Berbatov exit partly down to this?
The triumvirate of Ronaldo, Tevez and Rooney was in 2008 praised as the next big thing in club football. It didn't last for long as the Barcelona trio of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi laid claim to this title. Is it possible that we can create something to rival that? Rooney, Chicharito and Berbatov?
Quite possibly. We have at Manchester United, the rare mixture that is world class ability, raw talent and experience. With Rooney as the engine, Berbatov as the mechanic and Chicharito the driver, it's not impossible at all. And as with all cars, upgrade with a Sneijder and you got a hot rod.
Let's look at some stats.
In the Premier League season so far:
Chicharito has 13 goals, 1 assist and 53 shots on goal.
Berbatov has 21 goals, 3 assists and 89 shots on goal.
Rooney has 10 goals, 11 assists and 96 shots on goal.
Subtracting the total number of goals from the total number of shots, we are left with a whopping 194 shots that could've been goals—that's an awful lot of goals to be short and the 4-4-1-1 formation that we play nowadays is the reason why.
The 4-4-1-1 formation isolates the strikers from each other and because of this, opportunities for pull-backs, assists and the involvement of the other striker is largely reduced.
The 4-4-2 formation also has its limitations—simply seen when the opposing team decides to maintain its defensive line and stay deep (like Real Madrid against Barcelona in their Champions League semifinal).
But what about the 4-3-1-2? Rooney behind Berbatov and Hernandez—it would be similar to the 4-4-1-1, the only difference being that instead of just Hernandez in the box all the time, Berbatov will be there. It maintains the essence of the style of play United have employed successfully this season whilst maximizing goal scoring opportunities..
The argument can be made that this exposes the midfield, but to counter this, another argument could be made that when there are three world-class strikers powering into the opposition's penalty box like unstoppable trains, there will be blood. With three strikers, the 194 shots on goal deficit can be greatly decreased and any perceived weakness that may result in the midfield would be offset by a greater attacking threat (hallmark of the United teams of 2008 and 1999).
Can Chicharito, Rooney and Berbatov play together effectively? Well, the end justifies the means.