Is Robin van Persie suffering from fatigue?
Manchester United opinion: Van Persie must sit out a few games to help end his goal drought
It has been mentioned so often since the start of the 2012/13 season: the wealth of attacking options available to Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has made it difficult for the Scot to select strikers for games.
But it was very clear as to who would lead the attack for the Red Devils' 4-4-1-1 formation every game: £24m new boy Robin van Persie.
The Flying Dutchman has hit the ground running in his first season in the United shirt, scoring goals game after game and sometimes single-handedly winning the team three points.
The no-look half-volley versus Fulham from the edge of the box; the last gasp free-kick against bitter rivals Manchester City; important goals versus Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham - it seemed the Dutch master couldn't stop scoring.
Form isn't always rosy for a footballer, though, especially if you are a striker. Every top forward in the game will account to some period in his career where he hasn't found the back of the net for a run of games.
As former Manchester United goal machine Ruud van Nistelrooy once famously told Gonzalo Higuain: "Goals are like ketchup. Sometimes as much as you try, they don't come out, and then they come all of a sudden."
That seems to be the case at the moment for Van Persie, who hasn't netted since the win over Everton at Old Trafford on February 10. The striker was adamant that it was his goal at the end of last month against Sunderland, but the officials thought otherwise and marked it as a Titus Bramble own goal.
So what is holding back Fergie's big-money summer signing? Injury? No way. A blip in form? Maybe, maybe not. Fatigue? Most likely.
Sir Alex recenly said that he and the club are still understanding Robin van Persie's physical capabilities. The Dutchman was often injured while at Arsenal and never managed to complete a full season's worth games. It was only in 2011/12 when he finally completed a full season, topping the scoring charts along the way.
After the completion of that hectic season, he bustled along to the Netherlands' training camp to prepare for Euro 2012. He played three games in Poland and Ukraine before the Dutch crashed out in the group stages.
Van Persie did get a few days' rest before heading to Arsenal's pre-season and then of course, the big-money move to Manchester United followed.
Since then he starred in the league games and the group stages of the Champions League and played a part in the FA Cup, too. This continuous run of football starting from August 2011 looks to have tired the former Arsenal man out. The same occurred with Javier Hernandez, United's Mexican forward. He played continuously without much rest for a period of two years, which soured his goalscoring abilities until he got a full summers' rest in 2012.
Van Persie could be facing a similar situation. The fatigue has made him look blunt, with him skewing shots wide which would otherwise have been bulging the net. His link-up play, so effective and efficient earlier on in the season, looks a little off colour in recent games. The big miss versus Real Madrid away at the Bernabeu seems to have taken out a chunk of his confidence, too.
Three goals in the two World Cup qualifiers a fortnight ago suggested he had rediscovered his shooting boots again, but they were against Estonia and Romania - opposition of a lesser ability.
But at the present moment, resting Van Persie would be the best option for the club and the player himself. With Hernandez, Danny Welbeck, Shinji Kagawa and even Wayne Rooney being in better shape physically, Ferguson has no shortage of options in attack.
Given the 12-point lead over Manchester City, he certainly could afford to give some game time to Hernandez and Welbeck.
A good portion of rest, then a little bit of game time and then we will surely see Robin van Persie replicating his monstrous goalscoring form once again.
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