Cole: Judge United's strikers at end of season

Former Manchester United striker Andrew Cole believes the Old Trafford club's newly-reinvigorated strike-force should only be judged at the end of the season, and not before.

The August arrival of Robin van Persie more than masked the loss of Dimitar Berbatov to Fulham, and with 22-year-old England international Danny Welbeck still improving and both Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez remaining a major threat, United's front-line looks in rude health.

Sir Alex Ferguson's wide array of attacking options have drawn comparisons to the treble-winning squad of 1998/99, when Cole was joined in the forward ranks by Dwight Yorke, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

That strike-force was seen by many pundits as United's main strength during what was a hugely successful period for the club – they also won Premier League titles in 2000 and 2001 – and Cole believes the new generation should aspire to match their achievements.

"People ask you to compare them [to the 1999 squad], but it's very tough," Cole said, speaking exclusively to FourFourTwo following a training session with competition winners at Manchester United's training ground.

"We played together for numerous years and were fortunate enough to achieve a hell of a lot.

"Naturally, you're going to get these comparisons when you’ve got so many good players on the front-line again. Hopefully they go on to achieve what we achieved.

"You're always going to get plaudits throughout the season, that's football. But ultimately, Manchester United will be judged on what they win at the end of the season. If they end another season without a trophy, people won't be talking about the strikers - they'll be talking about what has failed."

Although Cole was able to form an almost telepathic understanding with Yorke during their spell with the Red Devils, the former England international - capped 15-times - also played regularly with Sheringham and Solskjaer, and he insisted that flexibility among the forward players was ultimately what set his Manchester United apart.

Naturally, he hopes the current crop can be rotated in similar fashion.

"It's essential that they can all play with each other - that would be a big plus," Cole explained. "Everyone expects Robin [van Persie] and Wayne [Rooney] to be the two main strikers, but if one of them gets injured then at least we know Javier [Hernandez] or Danny [Welbeck] could come in and fill the void.

"That's very important and that's what we had [in 1999]. It didn't really matter that me and Yorkey were perceived as the main two - if one of us was injured or the manager decided to rest one of us at any stage, one of the others could come in and do a job."

Cole also believes that the strikers must use the intense competition as motivation, and be inspired to always be on top of their game rather than slipping into complacency.

"You've got to look at it as a positive and use it to spur you on," Cole said. "Otherwise you get too comfortable because you think you’re going to be playing week-in, week-out - then your performance levels start to drop.

"It's a big plus that the manager has got four strikers. If you look at the start of the season, he had Robin on the bench against Everton and played Wayne - then, come the next game, he left Wayne out completely and went with Robin. So, I think the manager is more than prepared to keep everyone on their toes."

Manchester United's strikers will be aiming to gun down Norwich City and maintain their lead at the top of the Premier League when they travel to Carrow Road in their next Premier League fixture.

Andrew Cole led a training session with competition winners at The Cliff courtesy of bwin - the Official Online Betting Partner of Manchester United. For more info on the latest odds, visit: www.bwin.com/manutd

By James Maw


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