In fact, he netted on his debut against Liverpool in the Community Shield, added two more against Fulham in his first Premiership game and went on to total 80 in two seasons, causing Ferguson to predict: "We could be unveiling a statue of him one day."The recent run of four games without a goal would nevertheless hardly have been worthy of mention for any other player. Then all of a sudden he was asked to play and it is not easy to perform straightaway. But he has got his rhythm and confidence and he is of great value to us."The amiable Forlan, who did not score in his first 26 appearances before finally knocking in a penalty against Maccabi Haifa in September last year, added: "I trained hard and worked on finishing with the coaches. And when the manager decided to put me in [this season], I just tried to play well and score goals."Had Van Nistelrooy gone 26 games without one after joining United, he would doubtless have been suicidal. It does take time but you can see things going on on the pitch and we can do well together."Diego is on an excellent run, with some very important goals.
It is great to see that he is doing so well because he had a hard time at the beginning of the season when he didn't play much. If you see Diego's qualities and my qualities they can adapt together. The latter now finds he is not automatically the target-man for every attack, and while no United player keen to remain at Old Trafford ever dares to question the manager's tactics, he appears to welcome the change, declaring afterwards: "I think it can work into a great partnership. That was his fourth goal in successive games and before half-time, he had turned from rebuking Cristiano Ronaldo for an overhit cross just in time to rattle the bar and set up Ruud van Nistelrooy to end the normally prolific Dutchman's little lean spell; when Van Nistelrooy added a third, it was clear that a genuine partnership now existed some 22 months after Sir Alex Ferguson first tried it.While not deterring him from spending anything up to £20m of last summer's transfer profits on another goalscorer after Christmas, that is a huge bonus in the meantime for the manager, who has previously tended to rely on a 4-4-1-1 system of split strikers, with Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer playing just off Van Nistelrooy. Thus was Diego Forlan transformed from figure of fun to cult figure one Saturday morning at Anfield a year ago, scoring twice to put the skids under a Liverpool side who had shot to the top of the Premiership. Within a week the points had helped put United back in front of the old enemy - where they remained for the rest of the season - and the artist formerly known as Diego Forlorn had been immortalised in song: "He comes from Uruguay,He made the Scousers cry..."Last Wednesday at Old Trafford, it was the blue-nosed half of Glasgow crying in their heavy as Forlan's superbly poised volley undermined Rangers' hopes of making so much as a domestic dispute of the so-called Battle of Britain. I won't play mind-games with you." Whoever can he be thinking of?.
Of all the ways a footballer can endear himself to supporters, one of the very best is to score a decisive goal or two against hated rivals. It's a special game for the fans and players of both clubs."With that in mind, he will be delighted to have Michael Owen's fresh legs ready to return after sitting out the trip to Romania "Michael should be OK. Liverpool are already eight points behind third-placed United, and after losing 2-1 at home to both the London sides, will forfeit more credibility with a similar scoreline this afternoon.That means a lot of pressure in a fixture whose passionate significance does not escape Houllier, with his keen sense of Liverpool history: "Both sides respect each other, some of the [England] players have achieved something special together in Turkey and hope to be together in Portugal And the two managers respect each other as well. Less contentious is the change to a more adventurous style in response to criticism, much resented, of last season's side as mere counter-attackers: "We are the team with the most shots [in the Premiership], 15 to 20 attempts every game Even last season we were second only to United. When we won the three trophies we scored 127 goals - you can't think we scored 126 of them on breakaways."But the numbers that matter - points - prompt the question of whether there is anything more to this season's Premiership than Arsenal, Chelsea and United. But as we now know, Sir Alex Ferguson's charges - much to his disgust - had merely taken their foot off the pedal for long enough to be overtaken at the death. Last season, Gronkjaer's goal confirmed that Liverpool would slip back to fifth, their worst position in the four full seasons since Houllier took full control.He insists that there have been only a couple of occasions this season when his team have not performed, like the miserable 1-0 defeat at Portsmouth; that they are making progress, on and off the field; and remain on schedule to win the championship as part of his five-year plan.