How signing Owen could affect United

Last updated at 15:35 01 August 2005

Who goes?

If Manchester United could clinch a deal for Michael Owen, the Old Trafford careers of several strikers may come under threat.

Louis Saha, who has already been linked with a move, may find the England man's arrival the final shove out of the exit.

With Wayne Rooney and Ruud van Nistelrooy definitely ahead of him in the pecking order already, Saha may have to leave in order to secure the regular football he would need to force his way into France's World Cup squad.

Alan Smith may also find Owen's presence too much. Although Sir Alex Ferguson has mentioned deploying the former Leeds firebrand in a midfield role, if this experiment fails then Smith will find his playing time limited.

Unlikely to leave immediately, it may be the case that Smith moves in January if he cannot adapt to his new position.

Van Nistelrooy may be the most high-profile casualty of any deal for Owen.

The Dutchman has had a woeful pre-season and if Owen and Rooney click, Ferguson may decide that van Nistelrooy is more useful in terms of cash value than goal ratio.

Any such decision will, however, most likely come next year, giving Ferguson time to experiment with Rooney, Owen and the former PSV man.

Potential combinations

Owen and Rooney

England's first-choice partnership have done enough at international level to suggest that they complement each other well.

Rooney likes to drop deep and charge at defenders, whereas Owen plays on defenders' shoulders. Both are better in the air than they are given credit for, and they could be a partnership with everything.

Owen and van Nistelrooy

On paper, a classic big man-little man pairing. Despite his height, however, van Nistelrooy is less a target man and more a poacher, while Owen is more reactive than he is creative.

Getting two players who are at their best inside the area rather than outside to work together effectively would be a challenge even for a manager of Ferguson's calibre.

Rooney and van Nistelrooy

Last year's pairing may still come good, regardless of whether Owen arrives in Manchester.

Injuries interrupted their development, though initial signs were that the two could forge a productive partnership. Rooney provides the magic, van Nistelrooy tidies up any loose ends.

Owen, Rooney and van Nistelrooy

All three at once would certainly tempt Ferguson, and most opponents would find three of Europe's best too much to handle. The question mark here would be over the balance of the rest of the team; Ferguson experimented with a 4-3-3 last year, but at times his midfield looked lacking in either steel or creativity.

With Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs more suited to wide roles and a shortage of central midfield options, any attempt by Ferguson to play his dream strike-force may come undone because of a lack of quality behind them.

Owen/Van Nistelrooy, Ronaldo/Giggs and Rooney

Such a line-up would suit Ferguson perfectly. The Scot showed his favour for a 4-3-3 last year, and may believe that this is the formation for his new-look United.

Owen and Van Nistelrooy would rotate depending on the type of opposition, with Ronaldo, Giggs and Rooney playing in withdrawn roles, providing width and creativity.

The only question mark would be in midfield; a midfield three of Roy Keane, Paul Scholes and Smith may not provide a sufficiently secure base from which to play in such a cavalier style.

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