Saha able to fill striker void, says Ferguson

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Sir Alex Ferguson has tipped Louis Saha to step out of Ruud van Nistelrooy's shadow and help Manchester United to success this season. Ferguson has surprised many United fans by letting Van Nistelrooy join Real Madrid and then failing to secure a replacement.

Fernando Torres was widely assumed to be on his way to Old Trafford, but Ferguson balked at Atletico Madrid's £27m asking price. Instead, the Scot opted to keep Giuseppe Rossi rather than sending him out on loan and to rely on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs as striking back-up should injuries start to bite.

It seems the plan will get an immediate test as Wayne Rooney is struggling to overcome a groin injury in time to face Fulham next Sunday. Alan Smith is a fortnight away from recovery after his double leg break at Liverpool in February, so Ferguson's resources are already being stretched.

However, Saha appears to be over the injuries which have plagued his time at Old Trafford.

"Louis is a fantastic footballer," Ferguson said. "He has everything: great pace and two good feet. He is good in the air and exceptionally powerful. He only started playing in November last year and he still ended up with 15 goals. I think he could easily score 25 for us this season."

Provided Saha can stay healthy, few would disagree with Ferguson's assessment and few would also dispute that United looked more effective when the Frenchman replaced Van Nistelrooy last season.

Saha's ability to hold the ball up also appeared to get more out of Rooney and, on the evidence of the 3-0 friendly win over Seville on Saturday, the former Fulham man can also strike up a productive link with Ronaldo.

Both were on target against last season's Uefa Cup winners and, rather than respond negatively to Ronaldo's summer revelations of a desire to join Real Madrid, the home supporters united behind him on his first outing at Old Trafford since the World Cup.

"Cristiano got a good reception," Ferguson said. "He just needs games now, but a week's full training with us will help him.

"We are trying very hard to get another midfield player in," Ferguson added. "But, at the end of the day, I have a terrific squad of players with great ability. The boys have to accept the challenge. We are ready and, hopefully, they can do the business."