Van Persie v Aguero & Rooney v Tevez: Do City or United have Manchester's best strikeforce?

By Matt Scott

Manchester United and Manchester City are in place as the favourites for the Premier League title this season and much of that has to do with the goalscoring potential in either side.

Etihad Stadium boss Roberto Mancini recently claimed that the best forward line in the world can be found at Old Trafford, where the arrival of Robin van Persie has added to an already stellar striking unit.

The top flight’s two highest scorers from last season are now in place at United, Van Persie’s 30 goals was the only tally to beat Wayne Rooney’s 27.

Only one other player broke the 20 goal barrier, and that was Sergio Aguero, leading a City side who scored more goals than any other side in the league last season.

So with goals-a-plenty in both teams, assess who has the most potent attack in Manchester.

Aguero, Balotelli, Dzeko & Tevez – Manchester City

Aguero was City’s leading light last term, with his 23 goals coming in just 33 appearances, and including pivotal strikes against Chelsea and the title-winning score against QPR on the final day of the season.

The Argentine’s pace, poise and power was in evidence from day one in the Premier League, a scintillating debut double against Swansea providing the perfect introduction.

The supporting cast behind the 24-year-old should not be discounted, however.

Edin Dzeko also began the season with a bang, netting in City’s first four games of the campaign, including a quadruple against Tottenham as Mancini’s men underlined their title-winning credentials.

The Bosnian ended the season with 14 goals from just 16 starts, including the other stoppage-time strike on the final day of the campaign.

If he had been available for all of the season, Carlos Tevez would have surely rippled Premier League nets with regularity. The petulance shown by the former United man cast a cloud over six months at the Etihad, but his return to the team that saw flashes of brilliance, and last weekend’s Community Shield that featured a fitter, leaner Tevez scoring a peach of a goal, suggest that he may be ready to trouble defences again.

And then there is Mario Balotelli.

The Italian’s remarkable figures of 13 goals from 23 league outings, are even more incredible when noted just 14 of them were from the start, and only half of his starts yielded a full 90 minutes.

Balotelli is comfortable in several roles, able to operate from wide, as a spearhead or a support striker.

The 22-year-old also made crucial contributions, slipping the ball to Aguero for his crowning goal against QPR, notching a last-minute penalty to sneak the Citizens past then title-challenging Tottenham, and kick-starting the derby demolition of United at Old Trafford with a sweet finish before a celebration that will live forever in the memory of most.

Behind Mancini’s main goalscoring threats sit a midfield including David Silva, Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri to ensure that chances will not be at a premium, that can also chip in with goals when required.

Chicharito, Rooney, Welbeck, Van Persie – Manchester United

While City pipped their neighbours to the post last term, it was not for a lack of goals from Sir Alex Ferguson’s charges as United notched 89 in the league, just four less than City. In fact, if the Red Devils had shored up their defence when Balotelli & Co. ran riot at Old Trafford, the Premier League trophy may well have headed back to the Theatre of Dreams.

Wayne Rooney was the leading man at Old Trafford, crucial goals from the England international being worth 16 points to the Red Devils in the league last season.

It would have perhaps been fitting if a Rooney goal had sealed a 1-0 win over Sunderland for United to win the league. There was likely just one man more important to his club last season, and that man is now a Manchester United player.

As Arsenal fought back from their 8-2 destruction at Old Trafford to third place, without the 28 points gained from the Dutchman’s goals, the Gunners would have finished 16th.

Strikes against Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, Newcastle and indeed United prove Van Persie’s big-game appetite and it is his addition to the side that makes this debate a much more close-fought affair.

The immediate future of United’s younger strikers may have been thrown into doubt by the 29-year-old’s arrival but Danny Welbeck and Chicharito have proven recently that they still have plenty to offer.

Both hit 12 goals in all competitions last season, the Mexican was United’s only player, except Rooney, to reach double figures in the league, but Welbeck’s emergence and favouring above the former Chivas man may see him more likely to contribute this season.

Dimitar Berbatov is likely to be the one to leave in the midst of Van Persie’s arrival. The Bulgarian barely featured last season but still managed seven league goals in five starts.

Nani and Ashley Young were the main contributors from midfield, while Antonio Valencia contributed the second-highest amount of assists in the league, despite missing a quarter of the season last term.

Definitively landing on who has the better attacking options between the two clubs is almost impossible to determine given the wealth of talent that both possess. City and United both saw three hat-tricks scored by their players last season, a feat matched by nobody, for example.

In Rooney and Van Persie, United now have a partnership capable of scoring more goals between them (57 last term) than 15 clubs in the Premier League managed last season.

The arrival of the Dutchman is likely an attempt from Sir Alex to remedy the reliance on Rooney. An issue Roberto Mancini has not had to contend with after seeing the burden shared across his entire front line.

Chicharito may well be the best poacher in the Premier League, but his inability to contribute to the full game hampers him, while Welbeck remains incredibly raw, something that is unlikely to be remedied if he ends up stuck behind a more established pairing, if indeed that is how United line up.

Of City’s forwards, only Dzeko is limited to a particular role. Balotelli, Aguero and Tevez can all feature in a number of ways to complement the team and provide a cutting edge that is particularly in the patient, narrow system favoured by Mancini for much of last season.

With this season shaping up to be another titanic battle between the Mancunian giants, we may well have a definitive answer by the end of the season, but it will surely be a roller-coaster ride on the way.

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Which set of forwards do you believe to be the best? Do you agree with Roberto Mancini that Robin van Persie’s arrival leaves United ahead? Or do you think a returning Carlos Tevez is the boost City need to pip their rivals yet again? Leave your comments below or get in touch via Facebook and Twitter.

Manchester City to bring forward Balotelli contract talks

By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent

Mario Balotelli is set to be rewarded for his growing status by being offered a new contract by Manchester City, has learned.

The headline-grabbing striker’s current agreement runs until 2015 but City officials want to bring forward talks on a new deal to early in the New Year.

The Premier League champions resisted a €50 million (£40m) offer from big-spending Paris-Saint Germain this summer as well as sustained interest from the Serie A elite.

Balotelli’s two-year spell at the Etihad Stadium has been littered with controversy on and off the field, with manager Roberto Mancini having made no attempt to hide his frustration at his countryman’s antics.

But City are wary of allowing the Italy international’s contract to run into its final two years, when his sale-on value will begin to considerably diminish. understands that the club are preparing to rocket the forward, who turned 22 last week, towards the top end of their pay scale.

Balotelli is currently on €140,000-a-week (£110,000) and negotiations are likely to centre on the player joining the likes of David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez in the top bracket of City earners on around €255,000-a-week (£200,000).

The forward is represented by super-agent Mino Raiola, who stated that the player is now worth €255 million (£200m) following his impressive displays at Euro 2012.

He also masterminded Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s €37 million (£29m) switch from AC Milan to PSG this summer, earning the Swede €320,000-a-week (£250,000) after tax.

Balotelli insists that he is happy in Manchester but has refused to rule out a move back to his homeland or one of the Spanish giants in the next couple of years.   

There is also genuine City concern that Balotelli’s cash-strapped admirers will urge the player to sit tight and continue to keep all his options open.

But City’s top brass are in no mood to sell and, although the Abu Dhabi owners make it a general rule not to open contract renegotiations during the season, they want to lay down an early marker in January, steeling themselves for what could be protracted talks.

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Mancini: Dzeko and Tevez are staying at Manchester City

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has said he is “happy” with his current strike force and expects his four first-choice strikers to remain at the club.

Edin Dzeko and Carlos Tevez have both been linked with moves away from the Premier League champions this summer, whilst Mancini revealed recently the club had received several offers for Mario Balotelli.

However, the Italian wants the trio to stay at the Etihad, along with Sergio Aguero, and says the forwards all have his complete backing.

“We scored 93 goals last year so I’m happy with those four. They will stay here,” he told The Sun.

I still have confidence in them.”

Mancini was also happy to speak further about Tevez, who was absent for a large chunk of last season following a dispute with the club that saw him return to Argentina for several months.

The striker subsequently returned to Manchester and played a part in the title success, scoring a hat-trick against Norwich, and Mancini has been impressed with his behaviour in pre-season.

“I am happy with Carlos, he’s worked really well since we started training. His attitude is excellent — now he must continue like this,” he added.

“It was hard for him last season because he had six months out, so when he came back he was a long way behind.

“But he played a part. He scored four or five goals at the end of the season and those were important.”

Mancini: Manchester United are the favourites for the title

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has stated that he think rivals Manchester United are the favourites for the Premier League title going into the new season.

The two clubs went head-to-head for most of last season and took the race right down to the final game of the season, with Sergio Aguero’s 95th minute winning strike against QPR deciding the destination of the league crown.

However, ahead of the new term, the Italian boss believes Sir Alex Ferguson’s side will be the team to look out for.

“I think United are the favourite team this year,” he told reporters. “We are maybe second, third or fourth.”

The Italian added: “I am confident with my players because we won the league and also because last year we beat a fantastic team like United.

“But you do need to improve at every level. We are a young team and we need to get better, every month, every year.”

With the season’s traditional curtain-raiser against Chelsea in the Community Shield just days away, Mancini is nursing a few selection headaches ahead of the game, with the likes of Mario Balotelli and David Silva still requiring rest and Gareth Barry and Micah Richards consigned to the treatment table.

“Mario [Balotelli] and David [Silva] have had a busy summer, they need more time. They will probably be on the bench,” he said.

“[Micah] Richards, I think will be out for just this game, he has a small ankle problem. Gareth [Barry], I don’t know. I hope that maybe three or four weeks, or one month, but I don’t know.”