Rooney, RVP, Ruud, Ole, Yorke Or Cole: Man United's Greatest Strikers Compared

The world class duo give Fergie a potent attack, but how do they match up to the great United forwards of recent Premier League history?
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The world class duo give Fergie a potent attack, but how do they match up to the great United forwards of recent Premier League history?

Is Rooney Or RVP United's Best Striker Of The Past 15 Years?

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Us Manchester United fans have being going into overdrive with our praise for Robin Van Persie over the past week. I am no exception; watching his goal against West Ham in the FA Cup sent me into serious footballing ecstasy, and I’m now pretty confident Ferguson’s £24m investment will secure a 20th league title. Without him, I wouldn’t be so sure.

Can Van Persie become a United legend? And will he be remembered as one of the great strikers in the Ferguson epoch? Bring on the comparison piece… Hughes and Cantona are firmly in the hall of fame so we can take them as read, but how does Van Persie compare to the great United strikers of the past 15 years?

Andrew Cole (1994-2002)

Goalscoring record: 121 from 275 appearances. Not bad, not bad at all. He started off with a bang, scoring 12 from 18 in his first season, and between 97 and 2000 he managed over 20 every season in all competitions. 8/10

Finishing: On a good day, there was no-one better. He was, though, known to require a few chances to triangulate the exact whereabouts of the goal; luckily his brilliant movement always gave him quite a few pops at the cherry. 7/10

Creativity: Always more of a focal point than a creator, his creativity mainly lied in his interplay with Sheringham (with whom he developed a strong playing relationship in the early days despite their off-field differences) and, famously, Dwight Yorke. ‘Telepathic’, some might say- well, everyone does. 6/10

Talisman factor: Not really in his nature, a largely quiet character both on and off the pitch. Cue another cliché… He really let his football do the talking’... “What’s that, Andy? There’s a boy trapped down the well? Pass me the ball if that’s it”. 5/10

Big-game composure: Alongside Yorke, he took United to the Champions League final in 1999, scoring a goal of sublime beauty against Barcelona (below) and netting the semi-final winner against Juventus. Mind you, those two horrible misses against West Ham in the last game of the 94-95 season did cost United the league. 7/10

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Ole Gunner Solsjaer (1996-2007)

Goalscoring record: 126/366. He’s pretty much synonymous with the ‘super sub’ tag; four goals in 12 minutes off the bench will do that. Out of his 366 appearances for United, nearly half- 150- came as a substitute- which makes it all the more impressive that he makes this list, and is remembered as a club legend. (I think there was also something about a last-minute Champions League winning goal.) 7/10

Finishing: This guy wrote the book on finishing. In English. He was always cool under pressure, always able to make the best decision about where to slot the ball, and importantly, was unerringly accurate. His likeness to Hernandez is striking (ahem): great finishing, sharp movement, super-sub ability and remarkably elvish facial features. 9/10

Creativity: Not a massive part of his game, as again he was more of a focal point, but he was useful holding the ball up and playing others in with well-measured passes. 6/10

Talisman factor: His United profile could perhaps better be described as ‘cult hero’, and was rarely the biggest star in the frontline. Seeing him come off the bench always created a massive uplift around the stadium and team though, so he was at least a talisman-sub. 6/10

Big-game composure:  His famous winner against Bayern Munich in 1999 was more a case of attacking instinct than anything else. He never went missing- in any game in fact- but was generally not given the opportunity to show his worth in the biggest games, but as the Nou Camp showed, he was able to play his part to perfection even in the era-defining games. 7/10

Dwight Yorke (1998-2002)

Goalscoring record: 66/152. He made an immediate impact with 29 goals in his first season- with a stunning 8 from 11 in the Champions League- which he soon backed up with 22 in all competitions in his treble-winning second. 7/10

Finishing: He needed fewer opportunities than Cole to find the net, and his heading ability was top-notch. 8/10

Creativity: Again, he was probably slightly more full of craft than Cole. He had lost some of his pace by the time he joined United so relied on clever movement and a great touch. His flair-factor was also pretty high. 7/10

Talisman factor: He certainly was a big character, a vocal member of the team and able to handle the pressure. He also loved the limelight, which ultimately transpired to be his donfall. Ferguson and ludicrous, overbearing celebrity girlfriends don’t really seem to mix. 7/10

Big-game composure:  He scored against Bayern Munich, Inter, Barcelona and Juventus on the way to Champions League victory in ’99. Say no more. 9/10

Ruud Van Nistelrooy (2001-2006)

Goalscoring record: 150/219. He’s United’s all-time European top goalscorer, he twice scored in eight successive games and in 2004/05 managed eight Champions League goals despite being out for much of the season with injury. 10/10

Finishing: Sublime. He famously only ever scored one from outside the area, but he clearly didn’t need to. In a crowded penalty area, he always seemed to have the time to take a couple of touches and slot it in the only un-saveable part of the net. 10/10

Creativity: For someone remembered primarily as a box striker, he did stray wide more than one might expect, and had fabulous ball control. Actual creativity though? Not so much. 4/10

Talisman factor: During his time at United Van Nistelrooy firmly established himself as one of the most ruthless strikers in the world. His sheer volumes of goals spread confidence through the team and he was by all accounts a highly vocal figure in the squad. It was his alleged training bust-up with a rival talisman, Ronaldo, that ultimately saw him fall from favour before moving to Real Madrid. 7/10

Big-game composure:  He was rarely fazed, and his scoring rate didn’t diminish in the big league and European games. 7/10

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Wayne Rooney (2004-present)

Goalscoring record: 189/384. 2009/10 and 2011/12 stand out in particular, with 34 goals in all competitions in both seasons. Started off as a sporadic goalscorer, scoring in bursts of braces, but developed a greater consistency. 8/10

Finishing: In maturing as a player, he started to play the percentages a little more, nowadays scoring the vast majority from well within the box. His flurry of spectacular goals against Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Man City will live on in Youtube history though. 8/10

Creativity: With the introduction of Van Persie, he’s been given a creative midfield role on a few occasions and, overall, has impressed. His vision, touch, awareness and passing ability make him probably the most creative attacking player at United since Cantona. 9/10

Talisman factor: He remains England’s great (fading) hope, so has carried the burden of expectation since age 17. Rooney’s clearly learned from his outbursts, and over the past few years has risen to become United’s no. 1 talisman, doing the job very ably. 9/10

Big-game composure:  His goal against Barcelona in the Champions League final two years ago finally proved he can do it in the truly big games. Before then, with his England performances particularly in mind, there remained big question marks. 8/10

Robin Van Persie (2012-present)

Goalscoring record: 20/26. Outrageous. 8/10 (premature to assume he’ll carry on at this rate)

Finishing: United fans had watched him smash them in from all kinds of awkward angles for Arsenal, but I still think we were surprised to realise just how able he is to turn the seemingly impossible into the remarkably easy. His volley against Southampton early on was an eye-opener, and his ridiculously silky finish against West Ham was the money-shot. Still, let’s not get too carried away; I’ve seen him miss some pretty clear-cut chances this season, and pretty badly at that. 9/10

Creativity: Not one to spend the whole time on the shoulder of the last defender, he likes to drop off and bring others into play. He has spent a small amount of time on the left side of the 3 behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1 shape, and showed he is more than capable of creating openings for others. His delivery from free kicks and corners has also created much, on one occasion finding Nasri to perfection from a free kick to guide it into the bottom corner. 7/10

Talisman factor: He was Arsenal’s no.1 talisman since Fabregas legged it, dragging them to a Champions League position last season by himself (occasionally assisted by Song). Already he has shifted attention from Rooney at United, and looks to do so for at least a couple more seasons. 9/10

Big-game composure: His winning free-kick against City and goal against Chelsea indicate he’s up for it. Real Madrid next month will be the real test. 7/10

So, here are the results…

6th place: Andrew Cole (33/50)

5th place: Ole Gunner Solskjaer (35/50)

Joint 3rdplace: Dwight Yorke & Ruud Van Nistelrooy (38/50)

2nd place: Robin Van Persie (40/50)

1st place: Wayne Rooney (41/50)

You can disagree, but I’m afraid you’re only arguing with rigorous, well-established scientific data.

P.S: Despite his prolific strike-rate, I haven’t included Cristiano Ronaldo owing to the fact he played the majority of games for United in a wide midfield position.