Robin van Persie had, earlier this season, been referred to as the difference between winning the Premier League and coming second - and rightfully so, too.
Manchester United’s No. 20 had, by January 20th, amassed 18 goals in 23 league games and was sitting pretty on top the Premier League goalscorers' chart.
Sadly for the Red Devils, he then went on a run of scoring just one goal in the last six league games, with the goal coming in a 2-0 win over Everton at Old Trafford in early February.
This barren run, coupled with five goals in four games for Liverpool’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez, has seen Suarez leapfrog Van Persie and create clear daylight between him and last season’s PFA Player of the Year in the race for the Golden Boot.
Suarez is currently on 22 goals while van Persie is on 19, but this will probably be pushed to the back of the Manchester United fans’ minds as they push towards a historic 20th league title.
Given that the Dutchman’s form has taken a dramatic nosedive, here is the million-dollar question: can Robin van Persie be dropped from Manchester United’s starting line-up?
For me, the more you look at it, the more you are inclined to say he can.
Other managers have not been afraid to wield the proverbial axe in the way of their established first-team players. Just ask John Terry, or Arsenal duo Wojciech Szczesny and Thomas Vermaelen.
The second question is: could the manager do it? The answer here would be a resounding yes. Sir Alex Ferguson recently caused uproar when he left Wayne Rooney out of his line-up for the Champions League match against Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid at Old Trafford.
Another example would be in the central defence, where Sir Alex has for most of the season preferred to use either Nemanja Vidic or Rio Ferdinand to partner young Jonny Evans, while most would consider the more experienced duo to be a more suitable first-choice combination.
Lastly, one should ask: do Manchester United have a suitable replacement for Van Persie? Well, you simply do not just replace Van Persie. Arsenal are still reeling from losing him last summer.
However, an off-colour Van Persie could be replaced, and a certain Mexican within Manchester United’s ranks can come in to do the job.
Javier Hernandez has earned the tag of 'super-sub' this season mainly due to Van Persie’s goalscoring exploits, but even with his limited opportunities, he has managed to shine.
Chicharito has managed eight goals in 15 appearances in the league, with only six of these being starting appearances.
Here is another statistic to sink your teeth into: Chicharito’s eight goals have come from only 33 attempts on goal, while Van Persie has taken all of 103 attempts on goal to get his 19 goals.
This in no way means that Hernandez is now better than Van Persie - far from it. It does, however, give you enough reason to question Van Persie’s first-team status at Manchester United - for this season at least.
After all: form is temporary but class is permanent, right?
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