Saturday, March 18, 2006

Ruud or Saha?

4 games, 4 wins, and 3 goals for Louis Saha. On the face of it, it seems obvious that playing Louis Saha over Ruud van Nistelrooy is a rational selection by Sir Alex. And in all honesty, I don't see that we can disagree.

Then again, I've spent a lifetime being a contrarian, so why change it now? I have no doubt that Saha brings some pace and mobility to the forward line, but I also firmly believe that the lethal finishing that Ruud brings to the table is ultimately of greater value. What we miss in Ruud's absence couldn't have been more obvious than 5 minutes into the second half today, when Ronaldo brilliantly beat his man and played one right across the face of an open goal, only for absolutely nobody to tuck it away.

My contention is that the quality in United's play these last few games has been not because of Saha's presence, but because for the first time in a long time, both Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo are simultaneously at the top of their respective games. With those two on fire, and Ryan Giggs and Park doing much of the running in the middle, I submit that with Ruud in front, we'd have had a lot more than 2 goals in each of the last three games. Sure, Saha has scored 3 in 4, but Rooney and Ronaldo have 6 between them in the same time.

I think Saha is quality, but he's a poor man's Rooney or Ronaldo. He has the pace, and some of the guile, but not the same first touch, nor quite the same finishing ability. Ruud doesn't have that sprinting ability, but he can turn a man and hit the net from anywhere. He is a striker par excellence, and while you can't complain given that we're winning without him, you have to suspect that we could do even better. Not to mention the fact that Henry IX is now back alongside Ruud on the scoring charts as a result.

Perhaps this is why I'm not a football manager?

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