Robin van Persie: Manchester United may have more joy if striker is dropped by David Moyes

Speculation over the Dutchman's future is increasing

The fabric of Robin van Persie’s relationship with Manchester United frays a little more, day by day. On Sunday he garlanded the Dutch national coach Louis van Gaal with praise – “a fantastic manager” –and spoke of how age has made him “more sensitive to what my coaches are doing”. This on a weekend in which he was so surprised to have been removed by David Moyes after an hour’s football at West Bromwich Albion that referee Jon Moss had to point him from the field, which he left shaking his head.

This is one of football’s more self-absorbed players. With him, it’s all about Robin. The plain truth of Saturday’s 3-0 win was that United looked a more balanced, dangerous side when the Dutchman had gone and Danny Welbeck was on in his stead.

Welbeck will never be the finisher that Van Persie is  but there is consistent evidence that he can bring out the best in Wayne Rooney. As Welbeck took up a far higher role at The Hawthorns, Rooney stepped upinto a more advanced No 10 position, from where he immediately scored and then provided Welbeck with a divine goal of his own.

“We like Danny a lot,” Moyes said in the aftermath. “[He’s] a really good player. He got one and maybe could have had two. I have seen him starting to look a lot sharper in the last week or so. He has done very well.”

The problem for Van Persie is the one examined on these pages on Saturday. United’s more cautious team, defending too deep, are not stretching defences in the way that creates the clear goalscoring chances he feeds on. It’s more muck and nettles for United and this 30-year-old striker, who is by no means the fastest, has been left to manufacture his own opportunities. He hasn’t fared well and that plainly frustrates him.

The question for Moyes after Saturday’s bold decision to remove Van Persie so prematurely is whether he is prepared to take the next step and keep him out of the starting line-up to face Liverpool on Sunday – United’s last chance to prevent the old enemy bumping them out of the Champions League. There are good grounds for doing so.

The options for change at Albion are far more slender, with the decision of the club to allow the now ousted Dave McDonough – a technical analyst who got above himself – to get Steve Clarke replaced by Pepe Mel, looking more astonishing by the day.  Albion received no great recommendations from Spain about Mel.

Goalkeeper Ben Foster said that the players’ plea with Mel to abandon his high-energy pressing style was not behind the intensity drop against United. “You’re not going to be able to play this lovely touch football [against United] because they always press so high,” he said. But Mel’s philosophy was diluted and is irreparably damaged. Albion’s best option would be to return responsibilities to caretaker Keith Downing.

Moyes’s own grip on United is probably not strong enough for him to omit Van Persie on Sunday. The occasion is too great to move with the kind of boldness Sir Alex Ferguson displayed in dropping Rooney from the United side that faced Real Madrid at Old Trafford a year ago last Wednesday.

Moyes’s post-match optimism on Saturday was slightly overdone. The central defensive pairing of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones – operating together for the first time in the Premier League – hardly displayed a stability to bear out the manager’s suggestion that “the two boys today could easily be the two centre-backs for England in the World Cup”. He said: “We will play Liverpool like we would play any other side. We will have one or two people back, maybe Jonny Evans, maybe Rio [Ferdinand].”

But if he can get beyond the challenge on which his United future may depend – Liverpool, Olympiakos and Manchester City in nine days – then the options available to him in a world without Van Persie are greater than many might think. If Rooney behind Welbeck looked a good spectacle on Saturday, then Juan Mata behind Rooney could be a pairing made in heaven.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003