Two main talking points arose from an interview with Robin van Persie earlier this week; he admitted that he wasn’t happy with his form, and that he was unsure of his future. The Dutchman has scored only 8 goals this season for the Reds, and with a return like that, you have to say that he could be right to be worried!
Van Persie arrived in the Premier League in May 2004 after growing unhappy at Feyenoord and an ever deteriorating relationship with then manager, Van Marwijk. Arsenal managed to snap-up the attacker for a cut price £2.75m, just over half of Dutch outfit’s original asking price of £5m; little did Arsene Wenger know that this would become one of the best deals of his career. Van Persie was brought in as a winger first-and-foremost after his fantastic dribbling skills and shooting technique were uncovered, but Wenger had planned on converting him into a centre forward (much like he did with Thierry Henry).
The retirement of Dennis Bergkamp and Freddie Ljungberg enabled van Persie to move into a more central position and play as a second striker behind talisman Thierry Henry. The 2008-09 season was the season that he really took to the stage, taking both the Arsenal fans and Premier League fans in general by storm. He scored 20 goals in 44 games in all competitions, also topping the Premier League assists chart for the season with 11 assists. This prolific season led to him being recognised as Arsenal’s Player of the Season for 2008-09; perhaps the defining moment of a young Arsenal starlet taking his first steps on the road to becoming the Arsenal legend that he is today.
After several months of negotiations, RVP signed a new long-term contract with just one year remaining on his deal; music to every Gunners’ ears. He started the 2009-10 season in similar fashion to how he ended it, occupying many-a-headline and being awarded Player of the Month for October. However, the following weeks he picked up a knee injury which, at first, seemed nothing to worry about, but soon turned into a nightmare 5 month lay-off. Had van Persie been grounded before he could even take off? Would he be able to find his feet once again after such a long-time out of the game? Fortunately for Arsenal, the latter were not to be.
The 2010-11 season saw him remain sidelined at the beginning through more niggling injuries, but once he regained full-fitness, the Dutchman took flight once more. He became only the fourth Dutchman to score 50 Premier League goals, joining the likes of Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink, Ruud van Nistelrooy and former team-mate Dennis Bergkamp. This record spurred him on to continue in rapturous form, eventually finishing the season with 18 league goals from just 25 matches, claiming third place in the Top Scorer chart behind Tevez and Berbatov despite missing half of the season.
Having been appointed vice-captain for the 2010–11 season, Van Persie was promoted to club captain following the transfer of Fabregas to his boyhood club, Barcelona, at the start of the 2011–12 season. This season was to be his best ever, remaining in emphatic form all season. On 11 April 2012, after scoring the penalty against Wolves in a 3–0 away win, he became only the second player to score against 17 different Premier League opponents in a single campaign. Van Persie finished as the top goal-scorer in the Premier League with 30 goals, and became Arsenal’s 8th all-time top scorer with 132 goals; a record which was to remain increase no-more.
Van Persie’s yearning for silverware was becoming ever-more apparent, understandably doubting the possibility of gaining a Premier League or Champions League title if it still escaped his grasp when scoring 37 goals in 48 matches in all competitions in one season. It was with this and the “little boy inside” him that pushed him to the decision of not signing an extension to his contract with Arsenal, giving the Gunners no choice but to offload and get as much money as they could for arguably the most formidable striker in the world at the time. Old Trafford was to be his new home, with Sir Alex only too happy to acquire his services.
Van Persie’s dreams came true in the season that would follow, continuing to demonstrate his natural goalscoring ability and claiming his first Premier League title on the first time of asking, notching a further 26 goals to his Premier League goals tally.
But, as the old saying goes; ‘nothing good lasts forever’. Van Persie began in typical van Persie fashion, scoring both goals in United’s win over Wigan in the Community Shield to earn David Moyes his first win as the Reds’ manager, but in an injury stricken season he struggled to string together lengthy runs of matches, ending up with just 18 goals in all competitions. Not bad for many other strikers around the country, but perhaps the first sign of decline in the Dutchman’s game. Van Persie also registered the worst shot accuracy of all Man United’s strikers, adding to the cloud of doubt surrounding the form that he could carry forward.
This takes us to the current 2014-15 season. The Netherlands skipper has failed to perform for new man on the block van Gaal like he has been for so many years in national colours, scoring just eight Premier League goals in 20 matches so far. Goals are proving hard to come by for the Red Devil’s, with misfiring loanee Falcao and captain Rooney both struggling to hit the ground running of late. Van Persie has around 18 months to run on the four-year deal he signed on arriving from Arsenal in the summer of 2012. The Holland striker said as far back as March he would like to stay longer, but no deal has been agreed.
He said: “It is not up to me. For the moment I am staying here for 18 months. 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”.
Van Persie averages better than a goal every two games for United but this season has scored eight times in 20 appearances – a return he admits is not good enough.
It’s as clear as day that the Dutch silver-fox needs to find his feet once more, and if he manages to guide United back into the Champions League then it could provide an opportunity for him to demonstrate the European experience that is so often needed in a team; a team that is currently lacking in such experience.
United host Leicester City this weekend and will hope to deal a similar defeat to that which they suffered in the reverse fixture earlier in the season. The Dutchman will be expected to start the match, and will hope that a match against a lowly Leicester side can act as the first stepping-stone to rediscovering the form that the world knows he is capable of.