As the Dutch striker struggles to replicate his past form, Vincent Ralph suggests it is time he had a stint on the bench.
Adnan Januzaj’s outstanding brace for Manchester United against Sunderland last Saturday did more than rescue three points. It also dropped a sizeable veil over a problem that does not appear to be going away.
Where last season United’s saviour was almost invariably Robin van Persie, the once-prolific Dutchman looks not so much out of sorts as completely lost.
He can still conjure a chance out of nothing – as his turn and snap-shot at the Stadium of Light demonstrated. But he is becoming increasingly separate from the game going on around him.
On Saturday, he continued his habit of collecting the ball, looking slightly off-balance in the area and running into dead ends. Against Shakhtar Donetsk the previous week, he did not even do that.
This is not a criticism of van Persie’s ability; he is unquestionably a striker of the highest quality, and writing an article saying otherwise would be foolish in the extreme. But whereas the likes of Januzaj and Wayne Rooney are forcing some sparkle into United’s lacklustre early-season performances, van Persie has been swallowed up by the lethargy.
It was not supposed to be this way. The striker’s brace on the opening weekend against Swansea City suggested he would continue this campaign as he had finished the last one. But those majestic strikes are a fading memory, replaced by the concern that van Persie (temporarily at least) just isn’t the player he used to be.
He suffered a similar dip last season – a barren spell that coincided with United’s elimination from both the Champions League and the FA Cup. At the time, if the Dutchman was not scoring for United, no one was.
But somehow this season he looks even more out of form, and those fans bemoaning Shinji Kagawa’s omission from the team due to Wayne Rooney’s resurgence should take a different stance.
Rather than claiming the England man is taking Kagawa’s role in the team, I would suggest van Persie is taking Rooney’s. Should Moyes opt to play Rooney as United’s spearhead and Kagawa in behind, the goals may just flow once more. And in so doing, van Persie will be forced to up his game or sit them out entirely.
In all the excitement of a teenager’s undeniable talent, van Persie has got off easy. But amidst United’s early season lethargy, the Dutchman has been one of the worst culprits. And while it was once enough to say he will do little but score anyway, for now he isn’t, and it is time to give a chance to someone who will.
Do you agree that dropping van Persie will benefit the team?
image: © Doha Stadium Plus