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 Red11 REDitorial

Published: 30 JAN 2004

by Paul Hinson

The assembled Journalists and Television crews assemble at Old Trafford,
the new signing signs on the dotted line and does his customary pose
in the Manchester United shirt with the new name and number newly
ironed on. A scenario we have seen many times. Louis Saha was the
latest high-price recruit to join the richest club in the world, leaving
behind unfashionable Fulham, Al-Fayed and all.

But how will Saha fare in the harsher spotlight? United would only
sign a player if he had the ability, intelligence and courage to
play at the highest level. However, these assets do not guarantee

The new boy will probably get his baptism in his shiny new number
9 shirt against Southampton at Old Trafford on Saturday. He will
face intense scrutiny, like all new strikers at United do. If he
does not score in his first game he may be labelled a flop in
some quarters. This is harsh judgement indeed. His first touch,
first shot, first misplaced pass, all influencing the sometimes
critical audience of millions at home and in the stadium.
Football can be a cruel stage.

Not many manage to score in their first appearance for the Reds.
I can recall Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, Mark Hughes, Ole Gunnar
Solksjaer, Ruud Van Nistelrooy netting on debut. All legends,
and all with a century of United goals to their name, Ruud joining
the ton-up club very soon. But for others, glory was harder to claim.
The likes of Stuart Pearson, Frank Stapleton and Joe Jordan didn’t
start with a goal, Andy Cole had to wait two months for his first
strike, poor Garry Birtles suffered for a whole year before grabbing
his first League goal, amidst much mockery.

So are what are we getting for our money? Saha is one of those
rare players, able to shoot with either foot. He has the pace
of an Andy Cole, holding-the-ball-up ability of a Mark Hughes,
and without being tall, the aerial threat of someone like
Paul Scholes, who claims a good share of headed goals.

He is in his mid-twenties, has a grounding of Premiership experience
and is ambitious to eventually play for his country, France.
Louis netted 25 First Division goals in the 2000-01 campaign,
but really came to prominence in August 2001, netting twice at
Old Trafford on his Premiership debut. Fulham were finally
Undone 3-2, thanks to two Ruud efforts, but Sir Alex made a
mental note of the player.

Fans can make and break strikers. Alan Brazil in the mid-eighties
was never taken to the hearts of the United faithful, whereas
Norman Whiteside became a instant cult hero. Dwight Yorke
rattled in 29 goals in his debut season, but his popularity
slowly ebbed away as his contribution diminished. Terry Gibson
was written off as too small and ineffective, Solksjaer appeared
with no expectations and snatched his opportunity with glee.

Big fees go together with big pressures. Saha has the talent to
become another United great, but time will tell, and he may
need time.

Paul Hinson
Copyright © 2004 Red11. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission of the author.

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