Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has defended Robin van Persie following the Dutch striker’s failure to produce his best form this season.
Van Persie has scored eight goals in 17 appearances this term, but has often looked a shadow of the striker who inspired the Red Devils to their 20th league title during the 2012-13 campaign.
However, Van Gaal has an explanation as to why Van Persie has struggled this season - and it involves the forward’s Manchester United teammates.
Van Gaal: Man Utd must increase tempo
"Because we have to play against teams who make the space very narrow, defending with 10 people behind the ball then it is always difficult,” Van Gaal was quoted as saying by the Manchester Evening News.
"Play more quickly with high ball speed and disorganise the opponent, only then. We have to improve our ball speed."
Van Persie concerned by form
Van Persie admitted earlier this week that he was disappointed with his own performances, telling reporters: "We are not scoring enough goals, including me.
"I have to be honest. At the moment, it is not enough. I know that. I will do everything I can to improve that.”
He also confessed that he was unsure whether Manchester United would offer him a new contract before his current deal expires in the summer of 2016.
"It is not up to me - for the moment I am staying here for another 18 months," he was quoted as saying by BBC Sport. "That is it really. I can't look into the future. I don't know what is going to happen after that. We shall have to wait and see."
Not the same since Ferguson retired
Van Persie has not been the same ruthless efficient striker since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, who left Old Trafford in the summer of 2013.
In his debut campaign with the Red Devils he netted 30 goals in all competitions - including 26 in the Premier League - and had subsequently repaid the £24 million transfer fee Manchester United paid to Arsenal in August 2012.
But he was disappointing during David Moyes’s brief tenure at Old Trafford, scoring 12 Premier League goals in what proved to be an injury-hit campaign.
The appointment of Van Gaal - who made Van Persie captain of the Netherlands national team - was supposed to herald the return of peak Van Persie.
But six months into Van Gaal’s reign and Manchester United fans are still waiting to see their No. 20 to emerge from this lacklustre spell which threatens to end his spell at Old Trafford next year.