After two seasons largely disturbed by injury, Louis Saha is fit again and hungry for success. But it is not the competition in the forward line (Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney, Ronaldo, Nani or Ryan Giggs) at Manchester United which scares him, as he knows that he will get his chance in the side.
Indeed, the French striker talked exclusively to Soccernet.fr about his return from injury and his hopes of forcing his way into contention for a starting role.
Q. You have been through two complicated years with lots of injuries to deal with. How do you feel physically and mentally?
A. Much better. My knee does not swell up any more after I play. I am fit. Earlier on, I came back too quickly I guess. After the surgery, it is necessary to return slowly. It is always a little bit disappointing because you are part of a squad but cannot play. This is the hardest issue a football player can face.
I have been in Manchester for four years and, since signing, I have been disturbed by many injuries. I can say I was anything but lucky, but I had to deal with it and have now become a Champion of England.
Q. Sir Alex Ferguson has always supported you and given you many compliments.
A. It is a pleasure to have the coach's trust! It is actually my dilemma because if I had been bad, he would have left me in peace to take my time to return step by step. But it is also a pleasant situation to see the coach trusting you although you are coming back from an injury. I work hard, three times more than usual in training. Even if the physical shape is not perfect, with a good mental strength you can realize extraordinary things. Gaby Heinze is an example for that.
Q. With Rooney, Tevez, Ronaldo, Nani, Giggs and you, Manchester United has got many weapons in offence and so far it is working very well. The competition must be terrible, no?
A. It has always been intense. This year, it is even more difficult. But it is better to have Tevez with us, than to see him in Real Madrid. I also said the same thing for Van Nistelrooy when he left. I prefer to have the best players in my team. The season is long. There are fifty games, the pairing of Tevez-Rooney works superbly well at the moment, but I know that I will have my chance. I want to improve and I think that we have an exceptional group, capable of winning the Champion's League.
Q. Are Manchester United even stronger this season?
A. I think, yes. Players such as Rooney and Ronaldo, who are young but who have been playing for four or five years at the highest level, arrived at maturity. They bring a huge benefit to the team. For the past few weeks, our playing quality has been the same, we get ourselves twenty scoring opportunities each game, seven or eight of which are shots on target and we have three or four goals at the end. The ratio is great and we control our play better now. We were able to see it in the Emirates Stadium where Arsenal had to save the draw.
Q. In which sense has the team improved?
A. With players like Nani or Tevez, who completely correspond to the play of Manchester United, we have more efficiency in the last 30 metres. Before, maybe we based too much of our play on individual talents. Today, we are stronger collectively. There is more precision in movement and passing. I am very satisfied to be a part of this team, where the philosophy is offensive.
For a striker, it is like heaven - even in training. There is no better team in the world than Manchester United. Later, you can always ask to go to Real Madrid or Barcelona. But I am a fan of the Premier League. Every year, it is more and more difficult. Blackburn and Everton are getting closer for example. Tottenham and Manchester City now have money, so, right now, it is not the moment to leave England.
Q. What can Manchester win this season ?
A. Everything! We can win the FA Cup and the Premier League title. This squad is capable of winning the Champions League too. If there had not been so many injuries and suspensions last year, I am sure we would have gone to the final (United were eliminated in semi-final by AC Milan).
It was on the first leg (3-2) that we lost that battle, I am convinced of that. We had the strength to go to the final and it still hasn't been digested yet. The loss still sticks in our throats. It has been quite a long time since we picked up the trophy, so everyone is hoping now that it is our year.