Posted by Barrie on Thursday, 13 May 2010

In Hindsight: Manchester United Should Have Kept Diego Forlan

Having scored a brace in the Atletico Madrid's Europa League final victory over Fulham on Wednesday night, Manchester United fans can only look back at what may have been.

A season where the Red Devils had only a Carling Cup to show for after their season fell apart in less than a week when they were eliminated from the Champions League by Bayern Munich and beaten at home by Chelsea in the Premier League. An unfit Wayne Rooney played less than an hour versus Bayern and did not partake against Chelsea. United had a lack of fire-power without him, with Dimitar Berbatov failing to live up to his £30,750,000 price tag.

Over eight years ago, Sir Alex Ferguson invested £7,000,000 in Diego Forlan, signing from Argentine side Independiente. He had a torrid start to life at Old Trafford, going eight months, 26 games without a goal. 27th time lucky came from the penalty spot against Maccabi Haifa in a Champions League match. Even after that he continued to struggle to find the net, finishing his United career with just 17 goals in 98 games before his two and a half year spell ended with him moving to Villarreal.

Manchester United fans have some fond memories of the Uruguayan; most notably a second half brace in a 2-1 victory at Anfield and a stunning injury time volley winner against Chelsea a month later as Manchester United went on to win the Premier League that season (2002/03).

Diego Forlan was never going to overtake Ruud van Nistelrooy from the top of the league pecking order, but with injury-prone Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Louis Saha at the club. In hindsight, one more season for Forlan and he may well have turned into a regular Premier League goalscorer.

All hopes of Forlan getting another season in the Premier League banished when he was sold to Villarreal at the start of the 2004/05 season. 10 days later showed that Ferguson was making room for another striker as they would sign 18-year old prodigy, Wayne Rooney.

Ruud van Nistelrooy would miss most of that season due to injury and stay just one more year before moving on to Real Madrid. Louis Saha would never get a full season of games for Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer played just 22 games in the four seasons after Forlan left. There was room for Forlan on the squad list.

It's easy to say this nearly six years after. But Forlan was entering his mid-20's at the time of his departure. He had began to show his knack for important goals and he always gave his best on the pitch. The Premier League is harsh, especially at the top. Taking too long for the Spanish-speaking Uruguayan to settle onto foreign land proved his downfall.

For Diego Forlan however, he's proven a hot shot in La Liga, scoring 54 times in 106 league appearances for Villarreal and is currently at 66 league goals in 102 appearances for Atletico Madrid. He scored all 3 of Madrid's goals in their Europa League semi final elimination of Liverpool before bragging a brace as they went on to lift the trophy at the expense of Fulham. A hero in Spain, we can only think of what could have been if he was given time at Old Trafford...

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