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Aug 16, 2012

Man U strikers remind Ferguson of 1999

With an abundance of strikers, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is ready to party like its 1999 when Robin van Persie joins Manchester United.

Van Persie was undergoing a physical on Thursday, and Ferguson said he was "sure" van Persie would be available for Monday's season opener against Everton (ESPN2, ESPNDeportes, 3 p.m. ET).

Manchester United has agreed to a reported 20-million-pound deal ($31.3 million) for the Dutch striker.

Ferguson said the Dutchman could join Wayne Rooney in a partnership comprising the two top scorers in the Premier League last season. Van Persie led the league with 30 goals when Rooney scored 27.

"They are two fantastic players and it's great to have the both of them," Ferguson told British media.

Apart from the potentially mouthwatering partnership of Van Persie and Rooney, who scored 72 goals in all competitions between them last term, Ferguson also has forwards Danny Welbeck, Mexico's Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov.

The abundance of forwards reminds Ferguson of the 1998-99 season, when Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke scored the bulk of the goals, but Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer found the net in a Champions League comeback against Bayern Munich.

"In 1999, I had Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the four best strikers in Europe," Ferguson said. "We are going toward that now."

Ferguson also has another new player, Shinji Kagawa, who can play in an advanced role, as can Ashley Young, who enjoyed such success in that position for England.

"It is a fantastic collection of players and hopefully, I pick the right combinations," he said.

The difficulties Berbatov has had at United, where he surely will now leave, are proof that not every Ferguson signing is a success and there will be some fans who wonder at the purchase given the perceived weaknesses that still exists in midfield.

Meanwhile, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said Wednesday the Gunners were left with "no choice" but to sell van Persie to Manchester United.

"He is at Manchester United, unfortunately for us. The transfer was finalized in the afternoon," Wenger said while working for French TV station TF1. "It's never great to lose players of that quality but he only had a year contract, so we do not have a choice.

"We wanted to avoid that at all cost, but we weren't able to. Honestly, I'd have preferred to sell him abroad, to PSG, for example, over Manchester United.

"They have the advantage of having played against him and knowing his great class. He's truly an exceptional player in every sense of the word.

"We have already recruited since we bought (Olivier) Giroud and (Lukas) Podolski, who originally were intended to offset the departure of van Persie," Wenger said of Arsenal's preseason moves.

There could yet be more departures from Arsenal before the end of the transfer window, with Barcelona said to be close to agreeing to a 15 million pound ($23.5 million) deal for Cameroon midfielder Alex Song, while Andrey Arshavin and Denmark forward Nicklas Bendtner could also move on.

Wenger, though, is also likely to look to use some of the extra cash generated to finalize his team, with longtime target Yann M'Vila still on the radar, as Rennes hold out for a 17 million pound (26.7 million) fee, along with Real Madrid Turkish midfielder Nuri Sahin.

Defender Laurent Koscielny told Arsenal Player: "We saw last year that we had some difficulties at the start of the season, but afterwards you saw the real team.

"You need to work together, win together and help teammates, and if [the start to] the season is good we can do something in the league. If we start well we can get into the race for the title."

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (ankle) and Theo Walcott (thigh) will be assessed after both pulled out of England's international friendly Wednesday against Italy in Berne with injuries.

Van Persie, who joined Arsenal from Feyenoord in 2004, refused to sign a new contract with Arsenal, saying he wasn't happy with the direction the club was heading.

Arsenal hasn't won a trophy since 2005 and has been unable to keep hold of its leading players in recent seasons, with midfielders Cesc Fabregas joining Barcelona and no fewer than four players having left for Premier League champion Manchester City -- Samir Nasri, Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure and Gael Clichy -- since 2009.

Since announcing on his personal website last month that he wouldn't be signing a new contract with Arsenal, the 29-year-old van Persie also had been linked with City and Juventus. But United had emerged in the past two weeks as the club most likely to come forward with a bid.

Information from The Associated Press and Press Association was used in this report.

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