Van Persie and Scholes: match made in heaven?

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Manchester United had Robin van Persie to thank after avoiding a potentially damaging defeat and instead snatching three points against Southampton on Sunday. But the Dutch striker was quick to divert the plaudits to a more deserving candidate.

"I have to say 'thank you' to Paul Scholes," said Van Persie after the game.

"When he came on, everything was ticking. Every single pass he hit was the right one. He hit a couple of unbelievable 30-40 yard passes.

"With him, you are always on your toes because anything can happen. He was my man of the match."

There was a sense of bereavement at Old Trafford when Scholes announced his retirement shortly after Manchester United's defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League final of 2011, as the club lost one of its all-time greats.

Sir Alex Ferguson's inability to replace the 37-year-old was quickly apparent as United missed a midfield axis, and Scholes soon established himself as a vital component when he reversed his retirement in January.

Yet his importance to United could be further enhanced this season after the arrival of Van Persie, given the respective strengths of the two players - finding feet and finding space.

Van Persie's favoured position is as a No.10, but his transition over the past 18 months into a more traditional No.9 has seen the 29-year-old continue to find the net at a remarkable rate.

All of Van Persie's goals for Manchester United so far - of which there have been four - have been scored from inside the penalty area, and each success has been converted from a reasonably straightforward opportunity.

Such chances will be more forthcoming at Old Trafford than the Emirates Stadium, and Van Persie will be provided with more regular quality service than he has been accustomed to during his career to date.

The Dutchman's ability to find pockets between the lines and his movement on the shoulder of the centre-back make him nigh on impossible to mark and, in Scholes, Van Persie could have found the perfect player to predict his runs.

At Arsenal, Van Persie forged fruitful understandings with both Theo Walcott and Alex Song, with each player able to lay on numerous opportunities for their captain.

Scholes, however, has the ability to make Walcott and Song appear like Sunday league amateurs in comparison when he has the ball under his control, and will continually feed Van Persie so that his goal glut continues.

"In the last 15 to 20 years the best central midfielder that I have seen — the most complete — is Scholes," Barcelona's Xavi once said of the United veteran, and he remains as important to his club as he has ever been.

Rio Ferdinand refers to Scholes as 'Sat Nav' thanks to capacity to find teammates seemingly at will, and it is this unerring accuracy from which Van Persie and United will benefit greatly this season.

United, of course, can also boast other worthy architects in Michael Carrick, Shinji Kagawa and Tom Cleverley, but the fledgling understanding between Van Persie and Scholes can blossom into the one which lands them the title.

Last term, Van Persie scored 37 goals for Arsenal in all competitions and, with Scholes conducting the play behind him, could realistically surpass his achievements of 2011-12 this season.

Robin Van Persie
Premier League
Manchester United
Paul Scholes

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