Sir Alex satisfied with forward planning

HANGZHOU, China - Manchester United left Asia in the early hours of Monday with a few million dollars in the bank, fans and sponsors happy and a manager confident he has the makings of a forward unit for next season.

After the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, Alex Ferguson saw the Asia tour as a chance to see how best to deploy new signing Michael Owen and Federico Macheda along with Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov.

Starting with a different strike partnership in each of the four matches in Malaysia, Korea and China, he was rewarded with 16 goals with all four forwards getting on the scoresheet.

"I think it gives us very strong options," Ferguson told reporters after the 8-2 thrashing of Hangzhou Greentown that ended the tour.

"Macheda's development is good for a 17-year-old boy and he's got the physical attributes to go with it. And with the experience of Berbatov and Owen, and we all know the great expectations we have of Wayne Rooney, I think we're not too bad."

Ferguson's praise for Macheda, the Italian teenager who burst into the spotlight last season with a goal against Aston Villa, is unusual in that the Scot tends not to talk up young players for fear of putting to much pressure on them.

After more than a decade at the top of the game, the 29-year-old Owen needs no such protection.

The former Liverpool and Real Madrid striker shrugged off two difficult seasons at Newcastle with four goals in four games in Asia, double the strike-rate Ferguson expects of him next season.

"I think his contribution and overall play of a game is definitely suited to us," said Ferguson. "He's very cool in the last third of the field. He knows when to run and when to hold his run .... he'll get us goals."

TOUGHER TESTS

On Sunday, the England striker started alongside Berbatov and their interplay was encouraging, not least when they combined for Owen's volleyed second goal.

Berbatov scored three goals himself on the tour and Ferguson thought the coaching staff had also learned something about the mercurial Bulgarian.

"Last season was a strange one for him and we maybe didn't use him in the right way, but we know exactly how to use him now, further up the pitch, playing as a centre forward," the manager said.

Much tougher tests than Hangzhou lie ahead, of course, and the United squad move on to Germany this week for a tournament featuring Boca Juniors, AC Milan and Bayern Munich.

Nevertheless, Ferguson looked very pleased with what had been achieved in Asia at the cost of just a minor injury to Gary Neville.

Even Ryan Giggs gave a reminder that he is not a spent force on Sunday with his first hat-trick for United at the age of 35.

The Welshman has seen big names come and go before in his many years at Old Trafford and is convinced the club will survive the departure of Ronaldo and Tevez.

"That's what's so great about Manchester United," he said. "We continue to stay strong and move forward."