Louis Saha's failure to so much as make it through several Manchester United warm-ups this season has prompted the French striker to concede that a role in Wednesday's Champions League final might be his last in a United shirt. "The future isn't in my hands," Saha said. "I know it could be my last game, and I would understand if the manager went for another striker. But I'll try to make it happen for me."
Sir Alex Ferguson's appreciation of the player is unmistakable. He was marvelling only eight days ago at Saha's ability to score from virtually any shooting position. But that talent and the "different dimension" Ferguson believes the £12.8m acquisition offers are only of use when he is playing. While Dimitar Berbatov, whom Ferguson likes, is made of sterner stuff, a profusion of injuries has limited Saha's appearances to 76 in four years, albeit with 41 goals which demonstrate his menace, including the penalty he won and converted against Chelsea in September.
A deeply thoughtful player ever since he graduated from France's Clairfontane Academy, Saha said of the prospect Ferguson might be ready to sell him: "It would be painful if he did and it's painful to talk about it because I love the club so much. It's been very hard to accept this season. This year I felt like I had a point to prove but my fitness let me down a lot of times, and it has been hard to adjust. United is like an express train and sometimes you try to catch it but it can be very risky. That's what I've tried to do this season."
Ferguson is quite entitled to question his career at Old Trafford – "a footballing version of snakes and ladders" as United describe it – according to Saha, who first caught the manager's eye playing for a Fulham side defeated 2-1 by United four years ago.
"I will accept every slap from the manager because he's been outstanding for me, always trying to help," he said. "He's an amazing man manager and I'd love to be able to say thanks in the final."
On the looming night of destiny with Chelsea, Saha cannot profess to be too confident about a start. "I hope I could be on the bench but I don't really think about it," he said. And if he does secure a role, he will need to remove from his mind the "anger", as his compatriot and team-mate Patrice Evra has described it, which surrounds his failure to shake off injury.
"I will try to get my head right, that's the main thing," he said. "I have been training for a week and feel very good. It's been so hard. I'm 29 now and wanted to improve again this year. That's what you have to do at a club like this and it's difficult when you get injured. You are staying in the same place all the time, but life's like that. I do get miserable when I am injured, it's very tense for the family when I am. But I am a competitor, I want to play and I want to win things."
While Saha has struggled this season Carlos Tevez has been an instant hit and the Argentine, having signed on a two-year loan from West Ham last summer, is eager to sign a permanent deal.
United officials are investigating the best way to sort out the ownership situation and formalise the contract. "I would go and sign right now if the opportunity was there," said Tevez.
* Manchester City will play in the Uefa Cup next season. City finished highest in the English Fair Play table of the teams not already qualified for European competition.Reuse content