Two goals, 50 touches: Struggling Manchester United star vital in Red Devils win

Robin van Persie played a key role in Manchester United overcoming Southampton 2-1 on Monday evening.

The Red Devils had no real right to come away from St Mary’s Stadium with a victory, having been outplayed by the Saints for the majority of the game.

Van Persie was gifted an early goal, when Jose Fonte’s back-pass was cut out by the Dutchman, who placed a composed finish past Fraser Forster in the Southampton net. It was the 31-year-old who then went on to net the winner, with a well-timed run allowing him to poke Wayne Rooney’s free-kick through Forster’s legs in the second half.

The two goals van Persie scored were two of the three chances registered by the entire Man United side throughout the entire game, and both Louis van Gaal and Ronald Koeman admitted after the game that the Manchester side were incredibly lucky to be leaving the South Coast with all three points - three points which moved them ahead of Southampton and West Ham into third place.

Considering the incredibly staid performance from van Gaal’s men, they were fortunate that van Persie was having one of his incredible days in front of goal, and his brace moved his tally onto six for the season. The Dutchman has struggled this term, and, prior to the game, many were calling for Falcao to be named in the starting XI in his place. However, he rewarded the faith shown in him by van Gaal with his game winning performance - and we take a look at just how good he was.

  GoalsShotsSuccessful DribblesAccurate PassesPassing AccuracyTouches
Robin van Persie 2 3 4 29 88% 50

As already mentioned, the former Arsenal man netted two goals from three attempts - the entire tally registered by the Red Devils side - but his goalscoring was not the most impressive part of his game. Usually regarded as nothing more than an incredible finisher, van Persie excelled as a makeshift target man, taking the pressure off his teammates by holding the ball up in the final third of the pitch before laying it off to his midfield support.

The ageing forward registered 50 touches and 29 successful passes - with an accuracy of 88% - as he regularly dropped outside the box to slow down play so his lackadaisical teammates caught up with play. He won an impressive game-high four dribbles, and, if his teammates were performing better, it could have been a truly incredible performance from van Persie. Being forced to play an uncomfortable role, if van Persie was allowed the chance to sit in the box and register a high number of shots on goal, it is highly likely that he would have further increased his score tally by the close of the game.

A miraculous performance by the forward who has been coming under increasing scrutiny this season, van Persie was the only reason United came out of the game with any points - let alone all three. Considering he was expected to be dropped from the starting XI, the Dutchman responded in incredible style, and he proved that he has a vital role to play as the Red Devils look to return to their previous greatness by topping the Premier League table at the close of the season.

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