As his manager declares that Robin van Persie's goal-scoring form will soon return, it may not be for a while yet.
Since the moment Sir Alex Ferguson signed Robin van Persie last summer, he has been right in practically everything he has said about the striker.
When he described the Dutchman as “the last piece of the jigsaw” back in December it was hard to argue.
When he compared his signing to that of Eric Cantona, van Persie was on such a hot streak it made perfect sense.
But this week he has defended his goal-shy striker with the guarantee that the goals will soon return. Only this time he may not be right. Not if he means this season.
To say van Persie is not in need of a rest may be true. Not in the conventional sense of the word: to overcome fatigue.
But perhaps he needs a rest from a game that has seen him pass 800 minutes without a club goal.
His last was almost two months ago, in a 2-0 win against Everton. Since then, his closest attempt has been the shot that led to Titus Bramble’s own goal for Sunderland. Although before the shot hit one defender then another, it was going well wide.
Two days later, van Persie had an opportunity to score the equaliser against Chelsea in the FA Cup. But his side-foot volley was skied; and as hard as the chance undoubtedly was, it is deemed a little easier for players of the Dutchman’s calibre.
That is the problem with being so good. When you stop being majestic – if only for a short while – people call a “half-chance” a “sitter”.
Van Persie has had an outstanding season. He has been a key part of Manchester United’s charge to a likely 20th league title and saviour on many occasions, most notably his hat-trick against Southampton in the league and last-minute rescue-act in the FA Cup tie against West Ham.
But for Ferguson to say the goals will return soon speaks of a man who either hasn’t watched van Persie lately, or is refusing to believe what he has seen.
The truth is, the Dutch striker has been out of sorts for some time. Apart from one or two missed chances a game, he has spent the rest of each scratching for some kind of form.
As his manager pointed out this week, it happens to the very best. But if van Persie arrived at Old Trafford in part to shake up United’s other strikers, surely the converse is equally true. Surely his rivals for a starting place should be used to bring him back to form.
United are in a fortuitous position. A position that sees them with four top-class strikers and a midfielder in Shinji Kagawa who – when played in the right position – knows exactly where the goal is.
Van Persie will find his form again. There is no doubt of that. And few would bet against him ending his career at United – as he hinted at last month – with goals aplenty.
But for this season at least we may have seen the best of the Holland striker.
Now watch him prove me wrong with a hat-trick against Manchester City…
image: © Doha Stadium Plus