The magic number for Man United
Our Nick Hext thinks Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez provide the key to Manchester United's title bid.
- Related Content
Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson needed faith in their ideas and patience to get New Labour to electoral success in 1997.
Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic required time and the arrival of Dave Grohl on drums to transfer Nirvana's early Sub Pop buzz into the commercial success of Nevermind.
Manchester United fans should have similar confidence in the ability of their own top-notch trio as they enjoy the promising signs shown by Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez in the 1-0 win over West Ham at Old Trafford.
Wednesday night's encounter was only the third time that the trio have started in the same line-up - the other two occasions coming in wins against CFR Cluj and Braga in the Champions League - and there were reasons to be cheerful despite the hosts being off top form.
Rooney looked full of mischief as he operated in a deeper role and his probing and prodding provided the main threat to West Ham in a match that won't go down as one of the classics in Premier League history.
Paul Scholes can't keep playing forever - even if his continued displays of complete class may be disproving that - so there will be further chances for Rooney to enhance his credentials away from the front of the attack.
Tom Cleverley and Anderson looked to get forward at regular intervals on Wednesday night and that left the visitors unsteady when Rooney made late charges to get involved in the attacking manoeuvres.
The element of doubt the England international's deeper role gives defences is certainly going to be one that many managers will struggle to come up with a plan to stop.
There can be no doubt that van Persie is making an absolutely gigantic impact on the title race and the £24million spent in the summer is already an absolute snip.
The Dutchman may be 29 but he will provide enough memorable moments in the next few years to leave a big legacy, although comparisons with Eric Cantona on the 20th anniversary of the King's Old Trafford switch can't really be made given the huge difference in the club's current standing compared to 1992.
"Van Persie's goals have been absolutely vital to United so far this term and there's no doubt it would be the blue half of Manchester at the summit if the forward was still plying his trade at the Emirates Stadium for Arsenal."
The other member of United's star attacking trio is Hernandez and he is the man who can provide a bit more of an unexpected X-Factor in the title tussle.
We already know the Mexican is a great talent but his five league goals so far during the campaign have gone slightly unnoticed given the many plaudits heading the way of van Persie.
A summer of rest has certainly got Chicharito on the way back to his best form and playing on the shoulder of the West Ham defence kept them deep and offered Rooney more space further back to work his magic.
Even with the clear undoubted potential of the triumvirate to trouble every backline it will be interesting to see just how often Sir Alex Ferguson gets them playing together in the league.
You would certainly expect one of them - most probably Hernandez - to miss out in next weekend's crunch Manchester derby with Scholes back in the reckoning after sitting out on Wednesday night due to a one-match ban.
Shinji Kagawa is on the comeback trail and the Japanese playmaker already provided a few glimpses of his undoubted talent before being struck down by a knee injury.
There is also Antonio Valencia, Nani and Ashley Young to threaten from the flanks so it's fair to say Ferguson has plenty of attacking options at his disposal.
A wise man once said goals win matches - it may have been Carl Gustav Jung or possibly Lou Macari - and the adage will never be wrong as United's ability to fly high despite their defensive fallibilities continues to keep them at the head of the title race.
Credit goes to West Ham for the way they - in Sam Allardyce's words - used an 'outstanding defensive structure' to frustrate United but the fact the leaders have so much more to give should worry their rivals.
Ferguson must continue to get Rooney, van Persie and Hernandez in the same starting XI at regular opportunities and the trio's understanding will increase to prove that three continues to be the magic number.