Robin van Persie’s place in Manchester United’s starting XI has been questioned in recent weeks, but something that is proving to be a difficult decision for Louis Man Gaal should have been made for him after the draw at West Ham United on Sunday evening.
Cheikhou Kouyate’s neat turn touch turn and volley on 49 minutes looked like being the key moment in a well-deserved Hammers win, until the second minute of injury time when Daley Blind swept home from just inside the area. Though the match posed many questions for Van Gaal.
Sam Allardyce’s side may have had an easier task had referee Mark Clattenburg taken a different view of a first half clash between Van Persie and James Tomkins. The West Ham defender went down after the Dutch striker backed into him and appeared to swing an arm.
Gary Neville on co-commentary for Sky Sports pointed out that the striker had looked behind him before backing into his opponent, claiming that this may be a sign of guilt. In truth, only Van Persie knows if it was intentional and he was adamant that the Hammers star was making the most of it.
Contact was there, and it wasn’t excessive, but it was there and replays didn’t look good for the 31-year-old. A card was expected, which colour was debatable, but certainly not only the ticking off Clattenburg ended up delivering.
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A Van Persie suspension could have been a blessing in disguise for Van Gaal in the coming weeks, as the partnership of him and Radamel Falcao was ineffectual for most of this clash. Similar movement in similar players was too easy for West Ham to deal with for much of the game.
The Manchester United boss is persisting with the duo as a partnership with Wayne Rooney behind, but the Hammers showed that this is a combination not testing enough for opponents currently. It was until the late introduction of Marouane Fellaini and a change in tact on the part of the team, did either create problems.
West Ham sitting back helped in the end as it gave Blind the late opportunity to snatch a point, but it was a point they did not really deserve. The home side had numerous opportunities to score more than their one, but David de Gea was his usual outstanding self.
Van Gaal's Conundrum
Manchester United’s biggest problems have come from a lack of danger created in attack and the Falcao/Van Persie combination seems to be making a significant contribution to this.
Van Gaal might need to make a ‘one or the other’ decision regarding them and while a red card for Van Persie would have been damaging in the match, it may have helped in the long run.