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Last summer, Sir Alex Ferguson was once again talking wistfully about the quartet of forwards that inspired Manchester United to the treble in 1999.

"For us to achieve what we want to, we must have four strikers of the quality of Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer," the Scot insisted.

Hope became reality a few weeks later with the £31m capture of Dimitar Berbatov.

Yet Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney and Berbatov have failed to live up to expectations so far. BBC Sport finds out why they've been struggling.

Man Utd strikers - early struggles

Despite their attacking riches, United have struggled for goals in the Premier League this season.

They have scored 29 times, putting them fifth in the Premier League scoring charts behind Chelsea (40), Manchester City (38), Liverpool (35) and Arsenal (30), albeit having played two games less than their rivals.

In their last six league games they have scored a paltry four goals.

Cristiano Ronaldo is the team's leading league scorer with eight goals, while Rooney has four, Berbatov three and Tevez two.

Man Utd strikers - class of 1998/9


Old Trafford legend Andrew Cole believes the quartet can emulate their 1998/9 predecessors, though.

The treble-winning side scored 80 Premier League goals, 12 more than the second-most prolific team, Liverpool.

Yorke and Cole plundered 35 of those goals, Solskjaer weighing in with 12.

"The beauty of that quartet was that we could all play together and all score goals," Cole told BBC Sport.

"Each of us could drop off or play up top. I even had a good partnership with Teddy, despite the fact we never spoke."

Man Utd strikers - combinations


Ferguson's preferred striking combination this season has been Berbatov, Rooney and Ronaldo, who have started eight league games together.

The trio are expected to start against Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday, with Tevez again on the bench.

United have won six of the matches that Berbatov, Rooney and Ronaldo have started, with the trio contributing eight goals towards a team total of 15 in those matches.

The next most popular combination is Tevez, Berbatov and Ronaldo, who have started four matches, winning three and contributing six goals towards a total of nine.

Man Utd strikers - change of style

The arrival of Berbatov has changed the way United have played this season.

In the 4-0 win over Aston Villa last season (left), the average positions of the players show that Ronaldo (7), Rooney (10) and Tevez (32) attacked from deep and regularly interchanged positions.

Against Arsenal in their 2-1 defeat this season (right), Rooney led the line for United, with Ronaldo to his right and Berbatov (9) playing as a link between midfield and attack.

Man Utd strikers - Ronaldo focus

Comparing Ronaldo's touches in the 4-0 win over Villa in March (left) and against the same opponents this season (right) provide a further example of this point.

Last season, the Portuguese star tended to start centrally, with Rooney tucked in behind.

Against Villa last season, Ronaldo made most of his touches in the attacking half and drifted wide from a central position.

This season, he has tended to play wide and drift inside. In this season's 0-0 draw at Villa Park, Ronaldo was stationed on the left and made occasional forays inside.

Man Utd strikers - Rooney's new role


Rooney's role also seems to have changed following the arrival of Berbatov.

Against Villa last season (left) the England star had a roving role on the left-hand side of an attacking triumvirate also including Ronaldo and Tevez.

Most of Rooney's touches were on the left, but he made forays all over the pitch, even picking up the ball deep in his own half.

This season he has tended to lead the line, with Berbatov playing in behind. Against Arsenal (right) almost all of Rooney's touches were in the attacking half.

Man Utd strikers - Cole backing

Cole remains convinced the quartet will propel United to the title.

"It takes time to adapt to a new style and to build partnerships. When I first went to United, (former first-team coach) Brian Kidd told me: 'If you think 40 goals is enough at this football club, you're wrong'.

"I looked at him and thought he was mad. But once I'd been at United for a few months, I knew exactly where he was coming from.

"I had to work incredibly hard to develop my game and these players will do the same. I think they'll take United to the title."

By Simon Austin and Lenny Hanniford
http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/teams/m/man_utd/7807132.stm
 

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holy crap thought i was back at school with that , never seen so many charts, graphs etc in one article....interesting reading though :)
 

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its a very good read and very interesting i find it funny how one player can change and teams style so dramaticly i hope we settle in to the new style and start banging in more goals

im sure we will also cole is right for sure
 

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The thing we're missing from 99 is a World class strike partnership. Who can forget the commentator saying: "The combination was out of this world" about Yorke & Cole against Barcelona?

Rooney & Tevez had their moments last season (the back heel from Rooney to Tevez against Middlesborough springs instantly to mind) but Fergie's preferred partnership of Rooney and Berbatov hasn't really clicked yet.

Partnerships have been crucial to United over the years - Bruce & Pallister, Rio & Vidic, Neville & Beckham, Keane & Scholes etc. I hope Fergie can find the right partnership up front to lead us to glory.
 

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reddwarf said:
The thing we're missing from 99 is a World class strike partnership. Who can forget the commentator saying: "The combination was out of this world" about Yorke & Cole against Barcelona?

Rooney & Tevez had their moments last season (the back heel from Rooney to Tevez against Middlesborough springs instantly to mind) but Fergie's preferred partnership of Rooney and Berbatov hasn't really clicked yet.

Partnerships have been crucial to United over the years - Bruce & Pallister, Rio & Vidic, Neville & Beckham, Keane & Scholes etc. I hope Fergie can find the right partnership up front to lead us to glory.
the great thing was also that whoever came on especially ole would just slot into the game as if he'd been playing the whole match without upsetting the flow of the team in a negative way...think we were spoilt with the four strikers back then
 

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reddwarf said:
The thing we're missing from 99 is a World class strike partnership. Who can forget the commentator saying: "The combination was out of this world" about Yorke & Cole against Barcelona?

Rooney & Tevez had their moments last season (the back heel from Rooney to Tevez against Middlesborough springs instantly to mind) but Fergie's preferred partnership of Rooney and Berbatov hasn't really clicked yet.

Partnerships have been crucial to United over the years - Bruce & Pallister, Rio & Vidic, Neville & Beckham, Keane & Scholes etc. I hope Fergie can find the right partnership up front to lead us to glory.
scottsati said:
the great thing was also that whoever came on especially ole would just slot into the game as if he'd been playing the whole match without upsetting the flow of the team in a negative way...think we were spoilt with the four strikers back then
Two good posts which I agree with.


This article is a interesting read, and I think the images certainly help. Explaining things can only go so far.

I would say though that Ronaldo is not a striker. I know he plays pretty far foward and drifts into the centre, but I would still class Ronaldo as a winger instead of a striker.

And we do have 3 great strikers. But we have 3 strikers who play similarly, and imo we are certainly missing a striker who can offer a different dimension to our game.
 

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great post great to actually see the difference, these 4 tho have to click sooner or later they are all too good not to and when they do the goals will definitely flow.
 

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I think that Berbatov is finally settling in now we look like we missed his link play on wednesday night .

As for the goal situation Id be more worried if we were sitting in Arsenal's position but we win our games in hand and were in so why worry at the moment.
 

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We have four great players...but i hope we won't become what Barca were when they bought Henry and they already had Messi Dinho' and Eto'o....we're better than barca...maybe the form doesn't tell it but we'll get in gear as we always do and we'll be again up there. Hope we bounce back with a victory against Chelski and all the "fantastic 4" score:D
 

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Wazza1989 said:
We have four great players...but i hope we won't become what Barca were when they bought Henry and they already had Messi Dinho' and Eto'o....we're better than barca...maybe the form doesn't tell it but we'll get in gear as we always do and we'll be again up there. Hope we bounce back with a victory against Chelski and all the "fantastic 4" score:D
wouldnt that be lovely :D
 

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it certainly would be:D....or 4 goals...1 from each..or a deadly combination that will be made by 3 of them..and finished by the last one:D
 

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I'm still trying to work out who the fourth is...

Oh, it's Tevez.

Well yeah there's a similarity, although in '99 Teddy and Ole could come off the bench motivated and make an impact. I don't think any of these four can do that, which has been evident with Tevez especially.
 

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Because I'm DC said:
I'm still trying to work out who the fourth is...

Oh, it's Tevez.

Well yeah there's a similarity, although in '99 Teddy and Ole could come off the bench motivated and make an impact. I don't think any of these four can do that, which has been evident with Tevez especially.
yea thats a good point if Tevez or Berb is on the bench there almost sulking, Rooney is the only one that will come on really motivated and firing.
 

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Great post.

You wonder whether the real struggle to coexist is between Berbatov and Ronny. If you look at the So'ton game, Berbatov's best imo, he was the central figure in our attack - sans ronaldo. - and he did the job fabulously.

Perhaps both of them need the ball so much that they are relatively ineffective when they are out there together.
 

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This might be a moment of brlliance or stupidity....

We're all struggling to figure out the best positioning for our attack, right? Why not play CR up front as the target man with wazza just behind and use berba as the link man? It might get ronny scoring again, and berba seems to thrive when everything goes through him....

Just a thought...:eek:
 
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