Moyes is not playing to Van Persie’s strengths at Manchester United

Manchester United striker Robin van Persie won the Premier League Golden Boot last term for the second year in a row as the Red Devils were crowned English champions.

The Dutch ace scored 26 goals in the Premier League under Sir Alex Ferguson across 38 appearances, creating a total on 71 chances for his team with an average passing accuracy of 80% success and a shooting accuracy of 55%.

This term, the 30-year-old striker has made 16 appearances of a possible 26 due to injury but he has still managed to score 11 goals in the league and create 14 chances for the team.

His passing accuracy has only very slightly dipped to 77% (a three per cent decrease on last term) and his shooting accuracy is currently 46% (representing a 9% dip in accuracy) but, crucially, the former Arsenal captain has seen a big dip in his aerial duels won.

Last term, under Sir Alex Ferguson, Van Persie won 56% of his aerial duels for United. This term he has won just 35%, representing 21% decrease in his aerial success.

This is surprising to me mostly because of the notable change in style of play under David Moyes which has tended to focus on crossing from wide areas into the box – one would expect the Dutchman to be seeing an increase in his aerial success.

Van Persie has never been particularly regarded as an aerial target man, despite his 6ft2” height and core strength to go with it.

Van Persie has won just 25% of his headed duels this term (17 successful out of 69 attempted) compared to his 48% success rate with headers under Ferguson (50 won out of 105 attempted).

This, more than a very slight dip in shooting accuracy and passing accuracy, must be a concern to the new boss, especially given the way Moyes has set his team up this term with so much focus on crossing.

These crosses are either not finding the Dutch ace and United’s best player or he is not winning the challenges against defenders.

David Moyes has the luxury of an experienced, cultured striker with one of the best shots in world football in his squad and, at present, he appears to be setting his team up to not cater to his key man’s key strengths.

He loves to play off the shoulder of the last man, he loves to drop deep to receive the ball and work in the channels and he loves to drive left footed shots from inside the box – he doesn’t relish the physical nature of aerial bombardment the way a player like Marouane Fellaini does.

He is not a No.9 type of centre-forward, nor is he a No.10 like Rooney. He is more of a nine-and-a-half and he began his career as a winger at Feyenoord.

United’s average shot accuracy this term has been 46% and they have averaged 53% of possession in their 26 games, won 50% of their aerial duels and recorded an average passing accuracy for the team of an impeccable 84% - but they have put in more crosses than any other team in the league (28 per game on average).

This is not playing to the strengths of their most dangerous player and his form in front of goal is, I believe, showing the effects of that.

image: © little-pete

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