Can RVP Bring Back the Title to Manchester United?
By Kieran Guilbert
The summer’s shock signing of Robin Van Persie to Manchester United, is the most intriguing and divisive transfer of the window thus far as Sir Alex Ferguson seeks to win back the Barclays Premier League from his ‘noisy neighbours’, and title favourites, Manchester City.
As the first player to move from Arsenal to United in 25 years (Only the second ever after Viv Anderson in 1987) Van Persie will have the eyes of the footballing world upon him and perhaps an even greater weight upon his shoulders than he bore for his former employers.
Few football fans would dispute that Van Persie carried Arsenal for the majority of last season, scoring a staggering 38 goals in 47 games as his team recovered from a woeful start to finish 3rd in the Premier League. While there is no shame in finishing behind the world’s richest team and one managed by arguably the world’s best manager, it extended Arsenal’s barren run to seven seasons without a trophy. One FA Cup victory in eight years is not befitting for a player of Van Persie’s ilk.
At Manchester United, he will be a cog in a bigger machine, albeit a crucial one, as the club attempts to win its 20th title. Much like Arsenal last season, United were guilty of overreliance on their talismanic striker. Wayne Rooney had a very good season statistically, scoring 27 PL goals – a mark that only RVP himself bettered - but in reality, there were several games where he looked jaded and in need of a rest.
Although Danny Welbeck had an extremely encouraging breakthrough season, he is still raw, growing and learning his trade. He has masses of potential and showed great maturity at Euro 2012 but his finishing still leaves a lot to be desired and at 21 years of age, he must be given time to develop.
Like many other young, foreign arrivals to the Premier League, Javier Hernandez suffered from second season syndrome and while is finishing is exceptional; the rest of his game needs to be worked on. Dimitar Berbatov has been well and truly frozen out by Ferguson, which is sad to see for a player of his flair and skill, no matter how much he has struggled to adapt to United’s footballing philosophy.
Enter Van Persie. Not only a world-class finisher, but also creator, RVP will be the much needed partner and competition that Rooney has needed and the spark to reignite United’s charge for the title.
Is £24 million too much for a 29-year-old who was in the last year of his contract? Many have said yes to such a question, with to ex-Manchester City forward Rodney Marsh calling it a sign of desperation. Ferguson has an answer for his critics that few can argue with, as Sir Alex harks back to United’s ’99 treble winning team and their quartet of top quality strikers made up of Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunner Solskjaer.
Coupled with the astute signing of Shinji Kagawa from Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund, Ferguson appears to be addressing United’s most common limitation from last season, their lack of a plan B. Nani, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young, give Fergie a plethora of talent on the wings and this has always been the Manchester United way as they try to build intelligently from the back, stretching the opposition with width and striking on the counter.
This approach, however, is rather one dimensional and ineffective when teams are quick to shut down the wingers and cut off their supply, thus blunting United’s attack.
With the arrival of Kagawa and Van Persie, United can now set up to attack directly through the middle, in stark contrast to the standard 4-4-2 they deployed last season. If, as expected, United employ a front interchanging four of Nani, Rooney, Kagawa and Van Persie, teams will have to worry about incisive interplay around the edge of the box as well as threat from the wings. Scholes and Carrick are fantastic at reading the game and moving the ball, but they sit deep and try to control the game from the halfway line, rather than forage forward. United’s new signings, and probable new formation, will allow them to influence games as playmakers while shielding the back four.
In essence, Robin Van Persie adds another string to United’s bow as they seek to rectify the disaster of last season. Nonetheless, there is credibility to the criticism of this high profile move. Perhaps
United should have strengthened in central midfield and at full back rather than buy yet another attacking player. Maybe they should have waited and got Van Persie for half the price on deadline day, or for a free in January. Could they not have signed an exciting young prospect rather than risk a big money name failing to live up to his billing, à la Berbatov? We haven’t even begun to look at the real cost of RVP’s move, an astonishing £70 million when wages and bonuses are thrown in with the initial £24 million payment.
After all the debate, the to and fro-ing, the merits and drawbacks to this transfer, there can be no doubt that it makes Manchester United a stronger, more formidable team.
In the past, opposition defenders would have breathed a sigh of relief when they saw a teamsheet without Rooney. Now they will have to contend with Robin Van Persie instead, or even worse, both of them at once. It remains to be seen whether the two will strike up an effective partnership, but from a neutral perspective, it is a mouth watering combination of two of the world’s best strikers.
There is no guarantee that Van Persie will bring back the title to Manchester United, or any trophy for that matter. But one cannot blame Sir Alex Ferguson for bringing in one of the Premier League’s best players in an attempt to do so.
Van Persie has said he was drawn to United because of their history, their philosophy and their hunger and ambition to win silverware. His new manager spent a significant amount of money because he believes Van Persie is the man to fire his team to glory. As history has shown, only a brave man would bet against him.