Former Man Utd striker tells David Moyes to 'free strikers to score'

Louis Saha, seen here signing a shirt for Man U fan Jason Quek, says while David Moyes wanted strikers during his reign at Everton to defend too, he should let Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney to express their flair.
Louis Saha, seen here signing a shirt for Man U fan Jason Quek, says while David Moyes wanted strikers during his reign at Everton to defend too, he should let Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney to express their flair. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Unleash the attackers and trust the defenders.

That, according to former Manchester United and Everton frontman Louis Saha, is what current Red Devils manager David Moyes needs to do to succeed.

Having played under the Scot for four seasons at Everton, the Frenchman knows only too well the pressing and hard-running game Moyes used to great success on Merseyside.

But while a conservative approach may have worked at Everton, a similar tack is unlikely to yield much success at champions United - not when it comes at the expense of the attacking game the Red Devils are famed for.

The 35-year-old, who retired from professional football in August, told The Straits Times yesterday: "(Being conservative) is in his genes. He's always been very defensive because he had to at Everton.

"Now, he has Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and good wingers. If I were in his position, I would push the two (central) midfielders up and press higher on the field.

"He has to trust the defenders to face the strikers and make sure it's not the midfielders who are trying to defend."

Moyes has caught fierce criticism early in his Man United reign, after his team sputtered to three losses in their opening seven matches to lie ninth in the league.

As both manager and players adapt to one another at Old Trafford, Saha believes Moyes, a former defender, needs to be less demanding on his attacking players' defensive duties. Instead, he should allow them the freedom to express their offensive flair.

In town for the IG Masters Football Sixes tournament on Sunday, Saha recalled: "At Everton, he wanted a big volume of work from the striker. He wanted me to press more, run the channels, run the lines - in other words, be the first defender of the team.

"That's quite tough to do, especially when you need to also concentrate on finishing your chances as a striker.

"It's physically demanding and it's not easy to do this for more than 35 games a season."

Evidence suggests strikers generally struggle to flourish under Moyes. Prolific hitmen like James Beattie and Aiyegbeni Yakubu saw their goal-scoring dry up upon joining the Toffees.

Beattie had averaged 14 goals in his last 41/2 seasons at Southampton but slipped to just 5.2 in his 21/2 seasons at Everton.

Yakubu plundered 54 goals in five seasons with Porstmouth and Middlesbrough but could average only six in a season under Moyes.

In fact, in Moyes' 10 seasons at Goodison Park, only three strikers managed to score more than 10 goals in a season - Andrew Johnson (11 in 2006-07), Yakubu (15 in 2007-08) and Saha (13 in 2009-10).

Life as a striker was different under former Man U boss Alex Ferguson. Said Saha: "Sir Alex was a striker, so he knows the balance you need to have. He was asking Rooney not to chase around the field because Rooney was not where he wanted him to be.

"Once Rooney found the balance, he began scoring 25 goals a season for Man United."

Still, he backs Moyes to eventually succeed - if he can get the best out of his front two strikers. The pair have scored just three goals this season, with United's combined tally at 10 so far, seven fewer when compared to the number at this stage last season.

He said: "You need goals to win championships so you need van Persie and Rooney to be confident and play as well as they can.

"(Their scoring capability) is something I'm sure Moyes will try to preserve."

One thing Moyes will find hard to match is his predecessor's legendary "hair-dryer" treatment.

"Sir Alex's was definitely fiercer. He's got so much power," said Saha.

"Moyes is still a very young manager. When you face Sir Alex, you feel like he's your grandfather, you can't even try to reply."

IG Masters 6's S'pore Cup 2013

When: Sunday, from 2.30pm

Where: S'pore Indoor Stadium

Tickets: Available from Sistic


  • Liverpool squad: Paul Jones, Stephane Henchoz, Steve Harkness, Rob Jones, Patrik Berger, Vladimir Smicer, Dietmar Hamann, Robbie Fowler.
  • Manchester United: Nick Culkin, Clayton Blackmore, Paul Parker, Ronny Johnsen, Jesper Blomqvist, Louis Saha, Lee Sharpe, Keith Gillespie
  • Singapore: Bashir Khan, S.Subramani, Nazri Nasir, Rafi Ali, Lim Tong Hai, Aleksandar Duric, V. Sundramoorthy, Steven Tan.
  • EPL All Stars: Carl Muggleton, Des Walker, Michael Thomas, Mark Wright, Regi Blinker, David Johnson, Lee Martin, Pierre van Hooijdonk

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