A few weeks back I found myself questioning whether Manchester United would be better off without Robin van Persie. His influence on the pitch has declined this season, his body language has been poor and he has looked unsettled at the club.
I wanted to produce a piece on how selling him could pave way for an ever-improving Danny Welbeck, how Juan Mata could play in his preferred number 10 role and perhaps how it could give Shinji Kagawa a final season to prove his worth at United.
At the moment I’m not too sure what I believe would be the best option. Should he stay or should he go?
When United lost at home to Manchester City I wanted to see van Persie on the pitch. He’s a quality striker who is able to keep possession of the ball so the rest of the team can move forward and give the defence some breathing space. I’m not sure whether his presence would’ve made United avoid defeat, however I don’t think it would have been such a one-sided affair as it was. In addition I think he would’ve buried the chance had he got one. That’s just the striker he is.
United struggled to keep possession against City, they struggled to get out of the defence and looked shaky in attack. Few chances were created and those that were created were also missed by a clear margin.
Van Persie however thrives on matches like that – the big matches. In companionship with Wayne Rooney he’s simply a star. Perhaps his poor performances and frustrated body language are just a case of too many injuries on his behalf this season. Because; in the replay against Olympiakos – ahead of the Manchester City defeat – he was a class act.
But then again he was there when United lost to Liverpool. He didn’t manage to utilize his qualities in that match either, as he has failed to do for most of his injury prone season so far. Against West Bromwich in March he was lucky not to be sent off, despite touching the ball first in the challenge that could have led to his second booking of the match. I highly doubt the referee ever saw that.
Since being carried off the pitch after his hat-trick against Olympiakos, we haven’t seen him. His injury will keep him out for a few more weeks but in his absence – except for the match against City – United have managed just fine.
I was mostly impressed by his replacements against Bayern Munich this week. Mata couldn’t play, but Moyes lined up with Ryan Giggs and Valencia on the flanks, Rooney in the number 10 role and Welbeck as the front man stretching their defence. The tactical approach to that match was perfect. The defensive display was solid, the midfield – with the exception of Marouane Fellaini – impressed defensively, and Welbeck and Rooney also did their fair share of defensive work throughout the match.
Subbing Giggs for Shinji Kagawa at half time helped United’s attacking approach to the match, as he – like van Persie – is very good at keeping possession and being patient on the ball. In the second half United managed to occasionally threaten Bayern Munich and also snatch a goal through Nemanja Vidic’s header, which made me not miss van Persie the slightest.
In fact it was only after the match the thought as to what would’ve happened if van Persie had been playing as well occurred to me. Then perhaps Giggs would’ve been dropped and Welbeck would’ve filled the left flank. I’m not sure it would’ve helped the 1-1 scoreline in the end. If anything I think Welbeck’s presence, especially after his missed chance one-on-one with Manuel Neuer, made Bayern aware of his pace and consequently they didn’t push their defence as high up the pitch ever again.
As to whether van Persie should stay at United or not beyond this season I’m torn. I kind of liked the look of United against Bayern Munich and with a few new players in the summer the light at the end of the downhill tunnel will emerge. Though at the same time van Persie’s a world-class striker that would score more often than not if he’s given the chance. Against Olympiakos he showed the desire and qualities needed to play for United. He basically won progression in Champions League single-handedly.
At the end I’m thinking that if he is to stay, it would only benefit United given that he brushes off any personal issues he might have. What could be another option is that Moyes sees van Persie’s alleged personal issues as a way for him to earn the respect he should have as the manager of Manchester United. Getting rid off a star player is something we all know a certain other Scottish Manchester United manager has done in the past to further cement his stature as the most important figure at the club.
The choice is yours, Moyes.
We are hosting a Sportsman’s dinner on Friday 11th April 2014 with Manchester United legends Bryan Robson and Norman Whiteside. We are raising money for Cancer Research UK and have some fantastic memorabilia to auction, including signed Ronaldo, Cantona, Rooney and Bobby Charlton items. If you’d like to attend or wish to purchase a table for your business or company please click the banner below.
By Lars Thomesen
Like our page on Facebook
Come and discuss this article in our Forum
[Facebook_Comments_Widget title=”” appId=”” href=”” numPosts=”50″ width=”580″ color=”light” code=”html5″ ]