Robin van Persie: Is the Manchester United striker in a permanent decline?

Dutch striker had just 12 touches in the win over Arsenal

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The Independent Football

Twelve. That’s the amount of touches Manchester United striker Robin van Persie had against Arsenal on Saturday before being subbed off in the 75th minute.

The Dutch striker appears to be in a crisis and it was even been suggested that United wants to sell the man from Rotterdam next summer. In his first United season Van Persie led the Premier League with 26 goals; his terrible form this season has seen the 31-year-old score just three in 11 matches, while he scored only 18 under David Moyes last season.

It was thought that with the appointment of Louis van Gaal, whom the striker holds a close relationship with, his form would improve as well. Van Persie has not been able to impress and with Radamel Falcao soon to return from a calf injury it remains to be seen whether he can be still sure of a place in the starting XI. Van Gaal is known for holding close relationship with his players but has zero tolerance when it comes to under-performance.

After Giovanni van Bronckhorst's retirement following Holland’s successful World Cup in 2010, Van Gaal gave Wesley Sneijder the captain's armband. A year before the World Cup in Brazil, Van Gaal dropped Sneijder from the national team and took away his captaincy because the former Inter and Real Madrid star was unfit. The decision was heavily criticised in Holland but it shows that the ‘Iron Tulip’ has no mercy when it comes to misfiring stars.

Under Guus Hiddink's management the Oranje have endured one of the poorest qualifying campaigns in the country’s history. Winning only two out of their last six games, questions are being raised whether Hiddink can qualify for Euro 2016, and whether Van Persie, being the captain of the team, can bring cohesion back to the squad.

Van Persie has just three goals in 11 matches this season

In the qualifier against Kazakhstan, Van Persie and Schalke striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar were allegedly shouting at each other on the pitch. In Holland, Van Persie has been criticised for arguing with players and for not taking on the role and responsibilities of the captain as he was not willing to speak to the press.

Last month former Dutch international Ruud Gullit told the Daily Mirror: “There has been irritation between [Van Persie and Huntelaar] since the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

“It was simmering at Euro 2012 and it all exploded. The problems have far from disappeared. Huntelaar was mouthing off again against Kazakhstan and his old confrontation with Van Persie surfaced straight back up.”

Van Persie appears to be overshadowed by Arjen Robben, who is in the form of his life. The Bayern Munich winger, who suffered from various injuries as a youngster, has become a nightmare for every team he faces and was even compared to a Formula one car last week. Research conducted by the official Bundesliga website concluded Robben has been the most active player in the division; he has completed more sprints, passes, attempts at goal and won more individual duels than anyone else.

Erik Meijer, a former Dutch international and keen follower of the Bundesliga, last week told Voetbal Primeur: “It seems Robben has been in the shape of his life in the last 18 months. He is mentally fit, and because of that, physically as well.

“Robben is someone who will put a lot of thought into himself and into the team. He won’t function unless everything is in the correct place.” Meijer adds: “Compare him to a Formula one car. If not everything functions the way it should, Robben won’t function, but now everything does.”

Arjen Robben is becoming the face of the Dutch national team

Robben is becoming the face of Dutch football more and more and seems to be the only one of a group known as the ‘Big Four’ not be in decline. Van Persie is suffering from a lack of form, whether it’s temporary or not. Sneijder appears to be making it into the headlines for matters away from the pitch. 

Rafael van der Vaart, who missed out on the World Cup due to injuries, can no longer be regarded as a player of high significance anymore.

Robben, who is a contender in the race for the Ballon d’Or, draws comparison with superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and is taking more and more of the spotlight from Van Persie.

Van Persie once declared his desire to continue playing for another 10 years mentioning Ryan Giggs remarkable career as the perfect example. However, numbers do not lie. Twelve touches in one game and three goals in 11 appearances are not sufficient for a world class striker.