If Manchester United want to become a competitive force again, David Moyes must be prepared to take the boldest decision of his entire managerial career and sell Robin van Persie back to Arsenal this summer.
But before that, Moyes must made another bold statement by dropping the Netherlands international from his starting line-up - starting this Sunday against Liverpool.
Van Persie has shown his true colours this season: recently blaming his teammates for getting in his way on the pitch, and failing to give his all during matches because of his issues with the coaching methods employed by Moyes and his staff at Carrington.
What Van Persie has forgotten in recent months is that Manchester United pay him a fortune every week to give everything for the club, while the supporters have shown him nothing but love since he completed his controversial £24m move from the Emirates Stadium in the summer of 2012 and clearly deserve better.
The Dutchman could have easily picked up a red card for a couple of rash challenges against West Brom at the Hawthorns last weekend, but was spared by referee Jon Moss, who took a very lenient view of the incidents. However, had he been dismissed, it would have made Moyes’ job a little easier ahead of Manchester United’s most important match of the season so far.
Van Persie would have been suspended, which would have allowed Moyes to select a fluid front-four comprised of Adnan Januzaj, Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and either Danny Welbeck or Shinji Kagawa.
After substituting the petulant Van Persie on the hour-mark against the Baggies, United improved immeasurably with the less-static and less-temperamental Welbeck on the pitch.
The England international bagged himself a lovely goal thanks to a composed finish inside the box, while the impressive inter-play between United’s makeshift front four wouldn’t have gone unnoticed by Moyes, who must be wondering whether it’d be worth signing a new striker to replace the ageing Van Persie this summer.
The truth is Manchester United do not necessarily need another striker - although, of course, if a player like Edinson Cavani became available then the Red Devils should act swiftly. Welbeck’s natural position is the centre-forward role, is as Javier Hernandez’s, while Rooney enjoyed the best season of his Manchester United career in a more advanced position following the departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez in 2009.
What United are currently crying out for, more than anything, is quality in central midfield, a new centre-back to replace the outgoing Nemanja Vidic and a left-back as a long-term replacement for Patrice Evra.
It seems Moyes is doing his utmost to sign Sporting Lisbon’s William Carvalho, who would certainly strengthen the Red Devils’ midfield options, while the Scot is also desperate to land the excellent England international Luke Shaw from Southampton as the club’s next left-back.
The arrival of those two players, along with a quality centre-back, would instantly make Manchester United a younger, more vibrant and competitive outfit. However, it’s hard not to feel that the team would improve even more by moving on Van Persie, who is now in the early stages of decline.
Yes, he was fantastic for Manchester United last season. However, he was only ever going to be a short-term solution for the Red Devils, and cashing in while his value is still reasonably high is the only sensible option.
Van Persie’s relationship with Manchester United always threatened to be something akin to a brief fling. He now needs to return home and patch up things with the true love of his life, Arsenal, this summer.