So, Can United's 'Fab Four' Play Together?
Manchester United had Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov on the pitch together for 11 minutes at Blackburn on Saturday. Can this combination work in the long term?
Those 11 minutes were pretty fine: they were creating chances for each other and picked Rovers apart at will. But it was already a defeated Rovers so we should not read too much into it.
There were plenty who doubted whether Rooney and Tevez could play together - their doubts were dispelled spectacularly. Throwing Berbatov in the mix, many argued, would imbalance the squad as neither he nor Ronaldo are willing to do any defensive work and therefore we'll be outnumbered in midfield too often.
This argument does not really hold, to be honest, as Rooney and Tevez both boast workrates which fall into the astonishing category. There is a more simple argument: that these four cannot be built into a line-up which can exploit all their strengths and play to those.
However, it is worth having a look at the system we played at Ewood Park. It was 4-2-3-1, with Fletcher and Anderson in midfield, Ronaldo, Giggs and Rooney roaming around and behind Berbatov who was the solitary striker. It worked pretty well and yielded brilliant attacks and many chances. Of course it required Giggs' intelligence and passing as well but he's far from irreplaceable in that position.
Indeed, I'd suggest that putting Rooney there would be a very wise thing as that's his favourite, natural position even though he's been brilliant coming in from the right this game. But let's assume for a moment that he's there, with the responsibility to feed Berbatov, dictate the play and to score goals himself.
Who will play on the right? Who could provide width? Well, of course it would be Carlos Tevez. He has a natural inclination to drift out wide and Fergie played him there on a number of occasions so he's no stranger to the task. He's got the skills, the technique, the mobility and the passing ability, it is only his pace that is lacking but Rooney is only a little quicker than him so it should cause little problems.
And of course Ronaldo would run at them from the left, and from all directions as he is wont to do. Accomodating such stars into some contorted tactical set-up often hinders an otherwise great team - but this time I genuinely believe it could work as it all fits so nicely. These four would give us a formidable, even downright frightening attacking line-up.