Manchester United star Robin van Persie is delivering performances well below his own very high standards this season is now under huge pressure to improve as a matter of urgency, according to former Red Devils defender Gary Neville.
Van Persie's vital last-ditch equaliser against Chelsea somewhat papered over the cracks of an underwhelming first three months of the season for the Dutch predator, taking his modest goal return to the campaign to three from nine Premier League appearances.
United fans expect far more from a man who picks up a whopping £200,000-a-week at Old Trafford and is working under the tutelage of something of a mentor in Louis van Gaal, with Neville insisting that Van Persie can do far more when deployed as the lone central striker.
Neville looked at the mercurial marksman's performance against Manchester City last weekend in-depth on the latest edition of Monday Night Football and wasn't too impressed, although he did offer some mitigating circumstances as to why the 31-year-old wasn't firing on all cylinders.
"There's pressure on Van Persie, people want more from him," Neville told Sky Sports. "'He's got to do better in long situations and needs to make better runs, but his team-mates aren't finding him as much as [Paul] Scholes and [Michael] Carrick were two years ago."
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'Burglar' needs to rediscover ruthless streak
Neville also went on to insist that the return to full fitness of Michael Carrick could prove important to helping Van Persie find top form, thanks to his fantastic range of passing.
The England coaching assistant said: "I called him a burglar before, he lives off the back of centre-backs. The type of pass he wants is into space.
"In defence of Van Persie I don't think his team-mates are in sync as they were two years ago. Maybe Carrick coming back will help him."
What happens when Falcao is fit?
Van Gaal definitely has a huge selection dilemma on his hands when deadline-day signing Radamel Falcao returns to full fitness, can he find room for the Colombian, Van Persie and club captain Wayne Rooney in the same starting XI?
There's no question that Van Persie will have to improve his form dramatically to keep his place in the side safe, particularly after largely failing to shine in Rooney's absence.
Rooney missed three matches through suspension last month and Falcao's not been fit enough to feature against either City or Chelsea, but with the chance to take centre stage there for the taking Van Persie's been a disappointment.
Saturday's clash with Crystal Palace could be make-or-break for Van Persie, find the back of the net or in the long-term find yourself sitting on the subs bench more regularly.
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