Manchester United: Assessing Sir Alex Ferguson's Top Attacking Options
Building a successful Champions League side requires a manager to establish a proper level of depth within his side.
Much easier said than done, most successful managers fail in this endeavor, and thus fail to lift the coveted UEFA Champions League Trophy.
Many club bosses follow the path of Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp and fail to recruit enough high-quality reserves. Usually featuring in at least three different competitions, these clubs struggle when the manager cannot replace injured or suspended first-team players.
A handful of Champions League managers lucky enough to coach uber-rich clubs tend to make the opposite mistake and sign too many talented players. With only 11 spots in the starting 11, managers such as Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho tend to discover they have more disgruntled, overpaid "superstars" on their bench than influential substitutes.
Only a few get it just right.
Having led his side to three of the past four Champions League Finals, Sir Alex Ferguson has mastered the art of recruiting high-performing players and convincing them to accept roles which most benefit the club.
In this piece, we'll take a look at Fergie's stable of strikers and assess how he'll manage to integrate all five frontmen into his plans.
Easily the most talented player in the English Premier League (EPL), Wayne Rooney is one of few players who excels as an out-and-out striker, a center-forward, and a deeper-lying playmaker.
Combining a subtle touch with wicked accuracy, the industrious Englishman is dangerous anywhere within the opponent's third.
Far stockier and uglier than former United pretty boy Cristiano Ronaldo, the 25-year-old demonstrates a similar taste for the spectacular and the Ronaldoesque ability to convert free kicks like penalties.
With United now boasting a trio of talented young playmakers in Ashley Young, Nani and Tom Cleverly, look for Rooney to play primarily as center-forward where he will provide his teammates excellent service while continuing to net from the most unlikely of positions.
A curious figure, Dimitar Berbatov has often been described as brilliant and lazy within the same sentence.
While most fans seemed to favor a move which would see the 30-year-old shipped to French club Paris Saint-Germain for a handsome fee in the region of £10 million, Fergie was determined to keep his record-signing at the club for at least another season.
Sir Alex probably won't regularly select Berbatov to feature in the first team, but he can at least count on the languid Bulgarian to consistently possess and score against mid-table English Premier League teams.
With younger and more dynamic strikers Javier Hernández and Danny Welbeck hampered by niggling injuries, Berbatov could prove vital to helping United survive the rigors of featuring in four different competitions.
Heck, he might even feature against Chelsea or Manchester City. While he lacks explosive finishing power, his golden touch and deceptive movements make him an unsuspecting nuisance within an opponent's box.
A cold-blooded out-and-out striker, Javier Hernández is one of few players who consistently slips through opponents' offside traps.
By the time defenders realize they have been burned, the young Mexican is already five steps behind them.
In his inaugural season with the Red Devils, Hernández proved he was just as comfortable scoring from within a crowded box. Whether combining with Rooney to finish a slick one-two ball or heading in off the top of his head, the 23-year-old possesses an intuitive finishing ability rarely demonstrated by such young footballers.
While he will struggle to eclipse his remarkable 21-goal total from a season ago, look for Chicharito to continue scoring timely goals in hugely important matches.
Still somewhat one-dimensional, England U-21 international Danny Welbeck will require a couple more seasons before developing into a top-class striker.
Nevertheless, amongst the fastest and most powerful players in the EPL, the 21-year-old is currently one of an emerging breed of hyper-athletic poachers which includes the likes of Sunderland youngster Connor Wickham and 16-year-old Tottenham prodigy Souleymane Coulibaly.
If he can stay healthy, look for Welbeck to trouble even the sturdiest defenses.
More of a sentimental inclusion to the United squad, 31-year-old Michael Owen is more of a relic of an earlier generation than a legitimate contributor.
Nevertheless, the former England and Liverpool great has worked hard for Sir Alex throughout the past two seasons, so Fergie has given him one more year of top flight football.
While I suspect he'll probably only make around 10 appearances this season, he very well might manage to sneak his way onto the pitch for an important FA Cup fixture or Champions League match.
Who knows? He might even find the back of the net.