Fergie’s front-line matches treble-winning class of ’99

Alex Ferguson is ready to party like its 1999 when Robin van Persie joins Manchester United.

The Dutch striker underwent a medical yesterday and, providing he beats the 12noon registration deadline today, will go straight into the United squad for Monday’s Premier League trip to Everton.

In addition to sending out a significant message to champions Manchester City, whose manager Roberto Mancini wanted to sign Van Persie himself at the start of the summer, it bolsters United’s attacking options significantly.

Quite apart from the potentially mouthwatering partnership of Van Persie and Wayne Rooney, who scored 72 goals in all competitions between them last term, Ferguson also has England’s Euro 2012 forward Danny Welbeck and Mexico sharp-shooter Javier Hernandez in a four-man strikeforce.

It reminds Ferguson so much of that 1998-99 season, when Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke scored the bulk of the goals, but Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer were the men who found the net in that sensational Champions League comeback against Bayern Munich.

“In 1999 I had Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the four best strikers in Europe,” said Ferguson.

“We are going towards that now.”

In addition, Ferguson also has another new-boy, Shinji Kagawa, who can play in an advanced role, as can Ashley Young, who enjoyed such success in that position for England.

“It is a fantastic collection of players and hopefully I pick the right combinations,” he said.

Van Persie is the man everyone is talking about.

PFA and FWA player of the year last term thanks to an astonishing 37-goal haul, at 29, Van Persie represents Ferguson’s most high-profile purchase since the arrival of Dimitar Berbatov from Tottenham in 2008.

And even one of the players whose place is threatened expressed his delight, with Welbeck keen to welcome Van Persie into the fold.

“It is a massive boost to the club if Robin van Persie joins us,” he said. “I am really looking forward to playing with him.”

The transfer does not come without risks, however.

Van Persie’s injury record is not great and United need the striker to retain his fitness if they are to get the best out of him.

The difficulties Berbatov has had at United, where he will surely now leave, are proof that not every Ferguson signing is a success and there will be some fans who wonder at the purchase given the perceived weaknesses that still exists in midfield.

However, without question, it has restored a sense of pride to Old Trafford, as the Red Devils aim to try and wrest the title from City’s grasp.

“Last season was disappointing for us because we didn’t win the league,” said veteran defender Rio Ferdinand.

“Now it is about how we come back. We have shown in the past the mentality of the club and its history is that we always come back stronger.

“We want to give the fans what they expect and be battling at the top of the league.

“The gauntlet has been thrown down time and time again. It is up to us to pull in the right direction.”

United hits and misses

1. Dimitar Berbatov £30.75m (Sept 2008)

United spent the summer of 2008 pursuing Tottenham striker Berbatov, but it was just a dramatic few minutes before the close of the transfer window that they got their man. And the Bulgarian didn’t come cheap at £30.75m — United’s most expensive ever signing. Berbatov has fallen well short of expectations. 48 league goals in 108 appearances is not a bad return, but that he didn’t even make the bench for the 2011 Champions League final against Barcelona spoke volumes. Will likely be best remembered for his saved penalty against Everton in the semi-final of the 2009 FA Cup in whichhis casual spot-kick made him look rather silly.

MISS

2. Rio Ferdinand£29.3m (July 2002)

When United paid Leeds United £29.3m back in 2002, it appeared a crazy amount to spend on a defender. Yet Ferdinand has been a linchpin of the squad in theintervening decade (excluding the eight months he was banned for missing a drugs test) and was worth every penny. United won the league in his first season and another four after that. He also helped United win the Champions League in 2008.

HIT

3. Juan Sebastián Verón £28.1m (July 2001)

The arrival of Verón from Lazio was one of the most glamorous signings in the history of the Premier League — yet sadly for United it was only that, with littlesubstance to the £28.1m man. The Argentine never settled at OT and made just 51 league appearances in which he scored seven goals. Two years after arriving, he was sold to Chelsea (who incredibly paid £15m for a player who would make just 14 appearances for the west Londoners).

MISS

4. Wayne Rooney£27m (Aug 2004)

After bursting onto the scene at Goodison Park, and then appearing as though he could carry England to the Euro 2004 title before injury struck, it was obviousEverton would not be able to hold on to their boy wonder. And it was United who came calling, splashing out £27m on the then 18-year-old. On reflection, it was a bargain. Rooney is the fourth highestscorer in United’s history.

HIT

5. Anderson£20.4m (July 2007)

Still only 24, there remains a little more time forAnderson to justify why United paid Porto in excess of £20m for his services. The box-to-box midfielder has beendisappointing in the five years he’s spent at Old Trafford, showing only marginal progress.

MISS

6. Ruud van Nistelrooy£19m (June 2001)

Alex Ferguson pursued Van Nistelrooy for years, and it was only injuries that stopped the Dutch striker transferring from PSV Eindhoven earlier. He would be worth the wait. In 150 league appearances he scored 95 goals, while during his time at United he scored 38 Champions League goals — more than any other Unitedplayer in the club’s history. After five years at the club he was sold to Real Madrid.

HIT

7. David de Gea£18.9m (June 2011)

United needed to replace the retiring Edwin van der Sar with a top-classstopper, yet while De Geaclearly had ability,Ferguson’s decision to put his faith in a relatively inexperienced 20-year-old surprised many. Signed from Atlético Madrid last summer, the jury remains out on the Spaniard. He started last season shakily but finished it well.

JURY OUT

8. Michael Carrick£18.6m (July 2006)

Another player Tottenham reluctantly sold to United, Carrick has been a consistent force in Ferguson’s midfield since joining in 2006. There are few better passers in the Premier League, but his inability to find the back of the net remains a frustration.

MISS

9. Nani£17.3m (July 2007)

Unfairly compared to his countryman Cristiano Ronaldo after arriving from Sporting Lisbon in 2007, Nani had a slow start to his Old Trafford career. Yet he has begun to break free of those shackles, netting 10 goals from midfield in eachof the last two seasons, as well ascompleting 10 assists in the league last term.

JURY STILL OUT

10. Owen Hargreaves £17m (July 2007)

Some described him as one of the most naturally talented midfieldersEngland had ever seen — but injuries would limit Hargreaves to just 39 appearances for the club before he was released last summer.

MISS


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