Part of the reason as to why Manchester United could not defend their Premier League title last year was due to the form of 2012/13 golden boot winner Robin Van Persie. The star man two seasons ago cut a dejected figure all season as he struggled with injury, motivational issues and what appeared to be a lack of trust in David Moyes’ tactics and training approach.
The fact is Robin Van Persie was ‘burned out’. Having scored a collective 38 goals the previous season, injury free, at times single-handedly winning games for Manchester United, there was no way he was going to be expected to continue such form. Moyes takes a great deal of blame in this department. He should have recognised that a player with a history of serious injuries like Van Persie, should be given a longer resting period after playing so frequently at such a high level. Instead he brought his ‘dinosaur’ training regime to Old Trafford, not only injuring Van Persie on three occasions but unsettling the star man at the same time.
Speaking to Dutch website Metro Nieuws, the Dutch striker highlighted his concerns.
“Over the last few years I put down the best series of my career. I played 93 matches in the Premier League in a row. Most of them as a starter, some as sub. I never thought about injuries.
“But this season I had three, where I was out for at least a month every time. Sometimes I got despondent of it.
“It started with something small. I had a broken toe and because of that I started to walking different, which had consequences for the rest of my body.”
His despondency all season was apparent as he looked lethargic on the pitch, not his usual sharp self in front of goal. Despite this, Van Persie is undoubtedly still the main man at Old Trafford.
It must have felt like Christmas had come early for Van Persie when Louis Van Gaal was announced to be Moyes’ successor. As captain of Van Gaal’s World Cup Netherlands squad, the Dutch striker will surely be made the leader at Old Trafford next season and with a good World Cup and a sustained period of rest, the Dutchman could be back to his lethal old ways.
Speaking about Van Gaal, Van persie described their relationship as
“The best I have experienced with a manager.”
Although he was criticised this season for his attitude towards the new management and training intensity, I think his reluctance was encouraging. It shows that he is a leader and a winner and is not willing to put up with the mediocre. He moved to Manchester United to win not languish in seventh place and get walked over by teams like Olympiakos.
However you judge his persona, there is no arguing that Van Persie is United’s most dynamic attacking player, even more so than Wayne Rooney. His touch, technique and power have seen him likened to Dutch legend Marco Van Basten. Nearing his 31st birthday, he will be wary that his time at the top may be running out, making him even hungrier to spearhead United’s attack this season.
If he can combine his hunger with his skill and stay injury free under Van Gaal, I have no doubt that he will take Manchester United back to the pinnacle of English and European football.
By Jonathan Evans
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