Sir Alex Ferguson has a posse of strikers at his disposal this season with Manchester City the first to feel the force
Manchester City and Liverpool have been doing most of the big spending this summer yet the defending champions still have the attacking numbers. Sir Alex Ferguson has no fewer then seven strikers on his roster going into the new Premier League season and he has no plans to ditch any of them before the end of the transfer window.
"I'm happy with the situation, I'm not going to complain about it," the United manager says. "Some clubs would love to have seven strikers. There is a difficulty in terms of managing the situation in the sense of the number of games they can get but I've got all those players and I plan to keep them and get on with it.
"I expect them all to be here at the end of the transfer window, we'll compensate those that can't play by making sure they train well. You might get an injury down the road, you never know. At the moment I've no intention of changing."
Javier Hernández already has a slight injury that will keep him out of Sunday afternoon's Community Shield against Manchester City. In addition to his exertions in the Copa América the Mexican was concussed on United's pre-season tour and will be given a couple of weeks off to recover.
It remains to be seen how many games Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov will start this season, never mind Mame Biram Diouf, Federico Macheda and Danny Welbeck, but Ferguson is not sending anyone out on loan and all five of the support acts behind the first-choice front two of Hernández and Wayne Rooney are proven Premier League goalscorers. Berbatov, in case anyone has forgotten, shared the Golden Boot with Carlos Tevez last season.
Tevez will also be absent at Wembley on Sunday, though plenty of interest resides in how well Sergio Agüero fits into the City attack. It has been universally agreed that City have not just spent big this time but have bought themselves a player of genuine class and, though Ferguson may have reservations about how the neighbours will cope with the demands of their first Champions League season, he counts himself among Agüero's admirers.
"He is a good player, City's squad is very strong now, with Dzeko and Silva and Balotelli and Tevez," he says. "I don't know exactly how they will play Agüero, who they will pair him with or whether he will be on his own. He always played with Diego Forlán at Atlético [Madrid] so it will be interesting."
Ferguson says he is surprised City have not bought more players during the window. He expected them to strengthen even more and fears they still might, though he was most amused at the comment made by André Villas‑Boas on signing the 19-year-old Oriol Romeu from Barcelona that Chelsea want to sign players at a younger age.
"Well, they don't," he says. "Or at least they haven't done. We have always had a good nucleus of young players at the club. We've always been that way but there was a period about five years ago when I had a rethink about how we develop the club when young players came back into my mind. The younger you get them and the more work you do then, the longer they will be with you."
Barcelona appear the embodiment of that philosophy, though United's youth ranks have yielded impressive results in the past and may do so again. Already there is a younger feel to this season's squad with the additions of Phil Jones, Ashley Young and David de Gea, though Ferguson is just as pleased with players who have come all the way through the club's system and are set to make their mark this season.
"Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck gained important experience of playing in the Premier League with other clubs on loan last season," he says. "Cleverley in particular played a lot of games [at Wigan], Welbeck would have played more [for Sunderland] but for a couple of injuries. They have come back challenging for first-team places here and this season I think they will. I don't have any worries at all about them needing time to settle back in. Welbeck has been with us since he was eight. Cleverley joined us at 13. They have already been at the club a long, long time. They have grown up and been educated here.
"Generally speaking it is transfer purchases who sometimes take time to settle in. Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, for example, did not integrate immediately, though we did sign them in January which can sometimes be a problem. It is not always easy to switch countries and leagues in the middle of a season."
City are making their first appearance in the Community Shield since losing to Burnley in 1973, an event so far back in time it predates the now accepted customs of league champions playing FA Cup winners and the game automatically being staged at Wembley.
United have been involved on no fewer than 18 occasions since and, while not quite all the visits have been in Ferguson's time, the manager is sufficiently familiar with the drill to sound superbly blasé about it. "The Community Shield has no bearing on what happens during a season but we always like to view it as a stepping stone to the first game," he says. "When you play at Wembley, you always want to win. I think that's the only significance."
When the season proper starts next weekend, Ferguson believes a lowish number of points will win the title. He predicts the necessary total will be around 84, nothing like the Premier League record of 95 that Chelsea set in José Mourinho's first season in 2005 or even the 91 United managed in 2000.
"Our points total was high that year because we only had Arsenal to worry about," he explains. "Then Chelsea came on the scene with an incredible performance. But what you saw last year was teams in the middle of the league taking points from the top teams.
"There are six sides fighting to get into the top four now and even mid-table teams are spending hugely. That's why I still think this league is the best product around, because it's so hard to win. But last year we won with 80 points and I don't think it will take too many more this time."