Three reasons why Man United’s Robin van Persie can prove his critics wrong
Statistics, manager, and fitness to give Manchester United fans cause to hope for a revival in the Dutchman's fortunes
Van Persie has not actually been that bad
As critics line up for a pop at Robin van Persie, a quick step back to look at the statistics. Over his Manchester United career, the Dutchman has 52 goals from 89 games. That is a strike rate of 0.58 goals per game, a rate comparable to Denis Law and better than Wayne Rooney. What is more, van Persie’s first 25 United goals took him 43 games, while his second 25, a fair few of which were accrued in the forgettable detour under David Moyes, were scored in just 38. Granted, he would have wanted more than his four goals in 13 appearances this season, and admittedly, against former club Arsenal a couple of weeks back, he had what Daniel Taylor in the Guardian identified as the fewest touches in any match for over ten years by a Manchester United player featuring for at least 75 minutes in a game. He then, though, claimed a goal and an assist in a much-improved performance against Hull. With his team showing some signs of sparking to life behind him, it is far too early to write him off just yet.
Louis van Gaal got a good World Cup out of him
Of the images that come to mind when considering the Netherlands’ run to the semi-finals of the World Cup last summer, two of the most prominent involve van Persie. The first is, of course, his glorious header against Spain, recently nominated for FIFA’s Puskas Award for goal of the year; the second is from a matter of moments later, and is a photograph of the Dutch bench celebrating the striker’s finish, with Louis van Gaal at the forefront lining up an exuberant high-five. “It was great that van Persie came to me,” said the then-national team manager afterwards. “That is a sign of appreciation, and that appreciation is mutual.” Van Persie scored four goals in six games during the World Cup, under a manager who was widely credited at having worked miracles to take his team as far as they went. Can things really have gone downhill this fast?
He is (for now) free from injury
Last year, van Persie made just 18 Premier League starts, picking up no fewer than nine separate injuries over the course of the season. By Van Gaal’s admission, he was then “maybe 80 per cent” fit during the World Cup. For a man who, according to physioroom.com, has missed games due to 42 separate knocks and ailments since joining Arsenal in 2004, it is something of a miracle that he has featured in any games at all; but the fact remains that here he is, out on the pitch, and at only just 31 years of age, he has more than enough time to rediscover his mojo. The word is out that the fitness problems have cost him some of his pace, but in truth, that was never his greatest asset. He is a finisher, and despite what a glance at Roberto Soldado might suggest, that is not a skill that simply gets lost overnight. It would be no real surprise to see Van Persie back on scoring form against Southampton this weekend.