Robin Van Persie: Manchester United Striker Will Be Next Ruud Van Nistelrooy

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Robin Van Persie: Manchester United Striker Will Be Next Ruud Van Nistelrooy

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson appears to have signed the new Ruud van Nistelrooy in Robin van Persie.

Signed from Arsenal for £24 million, van Persie has yet again lit up the Premier League with four goals in two starts for the Red Devils this season, and the similarities to the legendary van Nistelrooy are already noticeable.

Van Nistelrooy is still revered by the Old Trafford faithful for his phenomenal goalscoring ability—the Dutch marksman scored 150 goals in 219 games for United, making him the club's most prolific player of all-time in terms of his goals to games ratio.

No player at the club has since been able to match his record, with a parade of strikers like £30.75 million man Dimitar Berbatov arriving at and disappearing from United with no shot at all of coming close to Van Nistelrooy's form.

That's apart from Robin van Persie of course, who's already carrying United to victory like his Dutch predecessor, and who Sir Alex took a huge financial gamble on in one last bid for trophy-laden success.

So, despite being well into the peak of his career at 29, with realistically just three or four years at the top left in him, what makes van Persie able to match the unparalleled achievements of his Dutch compatriot at United?

For a start, van Persie's instant impact has matched that of van Nistelrooy's.

Both players scored their first Manchester United goal against Fulham, and both netted their first hat-trick against Southampton.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Ruud Van Nistelrooy After Scoring On His Home Debut Against Fulham

Similar history aside, there's a lot in how the team plays to suggest van Persie will match the goalscoring feats of United's most loved Dutchman.

It was clear in the 3-2 league win at Southampton that United are set up to take full advantage of van Persie's stellar finishing ability.

The striker is given license to drop deep and collect the ball on certain occasions—just like he loved to do at Arsenal—but most of the team's play is designed to have him on the end of virtually every goalscoring opportunity.

After all, who else would you rather have than Robin van Persie on the end of a scoring chance?

A lot of Shinji Kagawa's play in the final third is to set the Dutchman free, whether directly or indirectly through creating space for a central midfielder to thread through a pass.

For example, in the game at St. Mary's, Kagawa set up two potential scoring chances for van Persie, and combined directly with him a further four times, while in the whole match Michael Carrick to van Persie was the most used passing combination on the pitch for a striker.

Carrick set up van Persie for four potential chances, and two more direct opportunities. 

The long-range passing of Paul Scholes also has the shooting accuracy of the Dutchman in mind.

In fact, eight out of the 15 key passes (passes which result directly in a shot on goal) United created had van Persie on the end of the chance, though one in that overall key pass total was from van Persie himself and another was via a fortuitous long ball by Anders Lindegaard.

An Example of How Manchester United's Midfield Are Set Up to Assist Robin van Persie

Besides the midfielders, it was also interesting to note how Javier Hernandez was instructed to set van Persie free.

Chicharito would often make runs across the defence and into the channels to stretch the opposition's back four and create space for a van Persie shot.

In the period of time that both the Dutchman and the Mexican were on the pitch together, van Persie had four shots to Chicharito's two, indicating how even the poaching Hernandez is sacrificing his potential for goals to help van Persie.

So it's clear that United are set-up to capitalise fully on the proven world-class finishing of van Persie, and rightly so given his £24 million cost despite being 29 and in the last year of his Arsenal contract.

Which is why, combined with that stellar scoring ability and his vast wealth of experience at beating Premier League defences, van Persie can match the achievements of United's best ever Dutch player and be the next Ruud van Nistelrooy at Old Trafford.

The striker scored 30 Premier League goals last season because the Gunners were set up to get him scoring, with Alex Song and Theo Walcott gaining a good number of assists thanks to their talisman up front.

In fact, van Persie might even one day surpass van Nistelrooy's achievements.

After all, van Nistelrooy never managed to score 30 league goals in England, and it took him seven games and 510 minutes to score his first four league goals at United.

In contrast it took van Persie just three games and 203 minutes to clock the same total.

Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Will Robin Van Persie Be as Good as Ruud Van Nistelrooy?

Plus, United's midfield today possesses more technically gifted and creative players than it did in the seasons between 2001 and 2006 when van Nistelrooy was at the club.

Of course, it will be very tough for any player to match the incredible record of 150 goals in just 219 games set by Ruud van Nistelrooy.

But as he's already proved in his Manchester United career, if there's any player who can replicate that form and be the next great striker in the club's history, it's Robin van Persie.

Though the big question is, what will happen when Wayne Rooney returns to the team?

Statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, the FourFourTwo Stats Zone App and Transfermarkt.co.uk

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