Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson almost has an embarrassment of riches in regards to the plethora of talented attacking options at his disposal. The thing is, though, none of those attackers are in amazing form right now.
Robin van Persie is a Premier League player of the year candidate but he hasn't bagged a goal in his last nine games while donning a United shirt. Wayne Rooney has been in enigmatic form for the past few years and it's difficult to anticipate on any given day if the once former talisman will be a hero or horrendous. Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) is having a good season and he's been in decent enough form as of late. However, it's not as though he's on some blazing goalscoring streak that makes it impossible to drop him. Danny Welbeck continues to play well but he's not scoring goals. Shinji Kagawa also has been generally good but there's something about his performances that usually leaves you wanting more. The trio of natural wingers -- Antonio Valencia, Nani, and Ashley Young -- have simply been woeful this season. Ryan Giggs has been playing well at 39-years-old, but it's not as if he's anywhere near the peak form of his younger years. So then, which attackers will Ferguson select to face Manchester City?
The gaffer is likely to deploy four attackers in his preferred 4-2-3-1/4-4-1-1ish system. It's possible, though, that a front three could be deployed if Ferguson decides to pack the midfield in a 4-3-3 or diamond midfield shape.
Leading the attacking line as the No.9 is likely to be van Persie, despite his goalscoring drought. If the Dutchman is surprisingly dropped, then Chicharito seems most likely as a replacement. However, Ferguson could also opt to deploy Rooney and Welbeck together -- this partnership typically results in the duo sharing the responsibility of dropping deep at the appropriate times.
The withdrawn striker or No.10 sort of player, whether that be in a 4-2-3-1/4-4-1-1 or in a diamond midfield, is likely to be Rooney. In the Real Madrid tie at Old Trafford though, we learned the Englishman is not undroppable if Ferguson has some tactical worries. The more imaginative Kagawa is certainly possible as is Welbeck if the manager desires the player in this role to be defensively dependable.
If all was well with our talented wingers, then the decision on the right side of attack would come down to either Valencia or Nani. The former still provides dependability defensively and he has a tremendous understanding with right-back Rafael. However, as we're all aware, the Ecuadorian has been increasingly toothless in attack this season. Nani, while showing brief flashes of his 2010-11 brilliance as of late, has been incredibly mercurial this season. His performance against Chelsea last Monday was shockingly bad.The Portuguese winger, though, has given City first-choice left-back Gael Clichy a difficult time in the past.
Both Valencia and Nani are still very possible against City, especially the former if Ferguson prioritizes defensive responsibility from his right-sided attacker. In addition, the manager praised Valencia after the Chelsea match as being one of the few players that was actually decent that day. The Ecuadorian, though, was mostly tasked with being a right-back at Stamford Bridge. If Rafael - who picked up a minor knock in a recent match against Sunderland -- is not deemed fit, then Valencia could be possible at right-back again against City.
The other players possible for a role out wide in attack -- on either flank -- include Welbeck, Kagawa, Tom Cleverley, Giggs, and Young. The latter two are more natural wide options. If United plan on taking a counterattacking approach in this game, then Welbeck and his tremendous pace could be an asset out wide. In recent months, he's done a wonderful job of carrying the ball forward or chasing it into space on breaks. This was particularly evident against Real Madrid. The likes of Kagawa, Cleverley, and Giggs would all likely play quite narrow. The concern with this would be space available for City's full-backs to burst forward into. Pablo Zabaleta took full advantage of this with dangerous runs forward against Giggs in last season's title-decider at the Etihad.
So then, who will Ferguson select in attack for the derby? RvP seems very likely as the No.9 while Rooney can probably be anticipated in behind as the support striker. Don't be surprised, though, to see any of Chicharito, Kagawa, or Welbeck feature in these roles. The players to be selected out wide is anybody's guess. Welbeck and Giggs are possible because of recent merit, but both are far from certain. If genuine width is desired, don't be surprised to see any of the out-of-form Valencia, Nani, or Young picked.
Who do you think will be selected? Who do want selected?