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article imageOp-Ed: Van Persie's dream move to Manchester United is now a dilemma

By Tyrrell Meertins     Feb 28, 2014 in Sports
Of the many plaudits Robin van Persie has received throughout his lengthy career, it’s shocking to believe that silverware has eluded the Dutch striker.
Like most footballers, Van Persie thrived to be a winner, but his injury-plagued career prolonged his road to stardom. Nevertheless, the Dutchman’s form over the past two seasons has transformed him into a legitimate world-class striker.
Prior to claiming his first Premier League title with Manchester United, the Dutch striker had only been involved in Feyenoord’s UEFA Cup triumph in 2002. Van Persie was an unused substitute in Arsenal’s 2005 FA Cup victory, and their 2006 Champions League final loss against Barcelona, thus enduring nearly an entire decade without sniffing success.
Nonetheless, the United striker developed into a complete striker throughout his time at the Emirates, in which he became the main focal point of their attack. The Dutchman is a ruthless, efficient finisher –– his movement off the ball, and positional awareness strikes fear into the opposition, and his versatility enables him to dropping deep to link play as a no.10, or drift into wide areas as a winger.
There was a vast increase in van Persie’s stats when the striker played over 30 Premier League games in a season, and his 66 goals in the past two campaigns speaks volumes. Van Persie, however, was keen on enjoying the final years of his career in a side that instilled a winning environment; being the best individual wasn’t enough.
The Dutch striker’s passion for the game was undeniable, and it often got him into trouble as a youth, as his desire to succeed in school wasn’t comparable to football. Teachers encountered difficulties dealing with his lack of interest regarding his education or his arrogant stature.
Yet, he possessed the skill that had many predicting that he would follow in the footsteps of Johan Cruyff and Dennis Bergkamp, along with the determination to elevate various components to his game. van Persie’s former coach Aad Pudders stated that the striker would be present on the training ground even when training was cancelled.
Approaching the latter stages of his peak years, van Persie’s dream of claiming top honours was fading. While admitting to listening to the “little boy inside him,” van Persie claims timing was pivotal in his move to Manchester United.
"My move to Manchester United was all about timing. We met each other at exactly the right time. They were so eager to win the Premier League title back. And I was so eager to win the league for the first time," van Persie said.
"That's why I sacrificed so much to come here. I chased a dream and I'm so happy the dream has now been fulfilled. Quite simply, I now want to win as much as possible, now I want to win it all.
At the time local rivals Manchester City, as well as Italian champions Juventus were interested in van Persie, but United’s winning mantra under Ferguson persuaded the Dutch striker to move to Old Trafford –– Champions League qualification wasn’t enough, van Persie demanded continuity.
Ultimately, van Persie’s signing was the wild card in United’s title success last season, according to former City manager Roberto Mancini. "Robin van Persie is a very important player for United," Mancini said. "He has changed their situation. He is the difference between us."
To be fair, Mancini was correct. While Sergio Aguero battled fitness issues, City lacked a reliable goal-scorer. Meanwhile, Ferguson was heavily reliant on van Persie’s ability to win matches. Remarkable hat-tricks at Southampton and to secure the title against Aston Villa, along with an injury-time free-kick winner at the Ethiad signified his impact.
Van Persie was jubilant. Old Trafford was his playground and he was the star – the Dutch striker’s impact was evident. "In terms of impact he has made as big an impact as any player I can imagine,” Sir Alex Ferguson said during United’s title celebrations.
United’s focus was to build on their 20th title triumph and push for European supremacy, but calamitous news regarding Ferguson’s retirement rocked the world – specifically van Persie. The Dutch striker was dejected, and claims he gasped for breath and shook his head in disbelief when the news broke.
United’s longest-serving manager decided to go out on a high, thus appointing David Moyes –– a manager without a trophy to his name – as his successor. Without the two men –– Ferguson and Rene Meulensteen – that persuaded van Persie to move to Manchester, the 30-year-old striker was back at square one.
Nearly a year later, van Persie and United are 90 minutes away from ensuring that – for the second time in three years –– they’ll end the season trophyless. And while van Persie still plays a big role in United’s squad –– as he’s arguably their best player –– the striker has found it difficult to replicate last season’s form. Van Persie didn’t naturally decline over the past few months, but two distinct factors impeded the striker's ability to maintain his formidable form.
Recurring injuries have returned to haunt van Persie after two successful seasons away from the medical room. Perhaps van Persie is having difficulties with Moyes’ rigorous training methods, but the Dutch striker has spent lengthy periods this season on the sidelines, featuring in 16 Premier League matches this season.
Nevertheless, when the reigning Golden Boot winner has featured in the United XI, his involvement has been limited. One of the issues behind Moyes’ poor start as United manager is his reluctance to adopt pragmatic game plans. Certainly, Moyes has stamped his authority on the United side by insisting on attacking through the flanks, and overloading wide areas, but it hasn’t always resulted in maximum points.
United could surely benefit from a hint of pragmatism, and aim to get the best out of van Persie, the man who single-handedly won the league for United, last season. Not only does van Persie look like a man deprived of confidence, but his ruthless finishing vanished. He received a great opportunity to score a vital away goal in the latter stages of their Champions League showdown in Greece, but he recklessly blasted his shot over the net –– subsequently crashing to the ground with his eyes grazed at the sky, wondering how he was dragged into this predicament.
Manchester United currently lack quality wingers and full-backs capable of providing adequate service from the flanks, and its affected United’s attacking approach. In contrast, Ferguson’s approach last season maximized United’s attack, but the play went through van Persie. There’s been a vast difference regarding van Persie’s touches per game and similar to their recent defeat to Olympiakos, the Dutch striker is often an isolated figure upfront.
United possess many issues within their limited squad, but it’s peculiar to see their main attacking source misused. Still, it’s evident the United striker isn’t relishing in Moyes’ current system, as it doesn’t maximize his strengths.
Perhaps this is a learning curve for Moyes, as he hasn’t had a player of Van Persie’s stature at his disposal. Van Persie doesn’t fit the mold of the strikers that have flourished in Moyes’ system –– strong centre forwards that solely rely on their brute strength to link play and poach goals within the opponent’s 18-yard box.
While suffering a slight decrease in shots per game, the decline van Persie’s involvement in United’s activity within the final third is startling. Van Persie received the ball 592 times in his opening 16 Premier League appearances for United, compared to his 397 this season. This season, his most proactive display was against Stoke receiving 32 passes, whereas last year he received more passes in 10 of the opening 16 matches.
Although this is deemed as a transitional period for the reigning champions, the disappointment around the team is at an all-time high. And while Van Persie classified United's form as lousy, the likelihood of United encountering a decline –– due to their naivety to rebuild the squad in previous years –– was high. Despite the injury issues and lack of service, van Persie has scored eight goals in his last 13 appearances, thus highlighting his natural ability to score goals.
The United striker’s goal upon his move to Old Trafford was to be a winner, but last season’s standout performer has lost his arrogance and drive to win. More so, Van Persie’s quest to achieve trophies and continuity at Old Trafford is proving to be a failure.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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