Many weeks on from Robin van Persie’s departure, Manchester United seem short of top quality up front.
Radamel Falcao’s departure to rival’s Chelsea has compounded this matter and Wayne Rooney stands alone as United’s only recognized striker. But there’s a lot more to Van Persie’s departure that meets the eye.
Many believe the time he spent at Old Trafford was much too short. There’s no doubt that nobody could see the Dutchman leave while Louis van Gaal was at the helm.
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Nevertheless, Van Persie’s stay with the Red Devils brought the 20th league title to Manchester. It was he who almost singlehandedly dragged Manchester United through to the finish line after all.
It was never supposed to be just Van Persie bringing United to success. Neither was Rooney supposed to carry David Moyes’ side alone a year later.
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When rumours of Van Persie’s imminent arrival first surfaced, fans were salivating not just for the arrival of the former Arsenal man, but for two world class strikers to work in tandem.
Some envisaged the start of a legendary partnership, one similar to Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole’s. Throughout every one of the three seasons, there were always a handful of moments in which the two combined to great effect. One might remember Van Persie’s volley against Aston Villa, where he was set up by a scintillating Rooney pass.
However, these sparks of brilliance were not reciprocated on a constant basis. Earlier in Van Persie’s stay, both players seemed to be right on top of each other. Van Persie and Rooney wanted to be involved in the build up play resulting in congestion. Neither player had defined roles.
Later on, Van Persie began moving further forward, occupying a role on the last defender. This worked to great effect for the Netherlands. Rooney’s story was different. With Van Persie taking up the main forward position, many would think Wazza’s role would be at no.10. Instead, under the rule of both Van Gaal and Alex Ferguson, the England international was shunted around the team.
Some days Rooney would be seen in attacking midfield and other times out wide. He was even deployed as a holding midfielder more than once. While Van Persie thrived, Rooney struggled.
Soon, the script switched in a dramatic fashion though. Last season, Van Gaal had initially insisted on keeping Van Persie up front. But he was no longer able to replicate the incisive movement of years gone by and his goal production declined.
In Van Persie’s shortcomings, Rooney was trusted with the forward role by Van Gaal and provided much needed energy and enthusiasm up front. He also contributed goals and linked up play well.
Van Persie status as the no.1 striker was effectively ripped to shreds. The Dutch striker eventually came to terms with this and a move to Fenerbahce was completed.
Rooney and Van Persie in the same side could have been a match made in heaven. Both had world class ability, but were far too much alike to achieve success. Never able to flourish collectively, the two were never a duo and, instead, they were individuals vying for their own territory.