When Sir Alex Ferguson splashed out the £24 million required to land Dutch international Robin van Persie over the summer transfer window, it was done in the hope that this would provide the Red Devils with the strike power needed to win back the English Premier League title.
United had fallen so desperately short just six months ago—losing on goal difference to rivals Manchester City following the most dramatic final day in Premier League history—and it was felt that if the Red Devils were to be competitive again this season, they would need another attacking option.
Wayne Rooney was playing brilliant football, but they needed another player to give them drive in midfield and another attacking threat.
Neither Danny Welbeck nor Javier Hernandez were providing that spark, so Ferguson went and signed the reigning Premier League Golden Boot winner in Van Persie, whose 30 league goals last season were crucial in Arsenal’s top-four finish.
The plan, as ambiguous as it might have seemed, was that Van Persie would combine with Rooney to form one of the most formidable duos in world football—unable to be matched or contained by any defense in they would face that year.
An injury to Rooney early in the season put those dreams on hold momentarily, but with the England international returning to peak fitness, he and the 29-year-old Dutchman would begin to embark on the relationship that Ferguson had envisaged at the start of the transfer window.
It's a relationship that could win the Premier League for Manchester United.
Simply put, there is no striker duo in the league as strong as the Rooney-RVP combination that currently exists at Old Trafford.
At an individual level, they are two of the world’s most clinical finishers who can turn a match on its head at any given moment. But when combined together like they have been so far this season, they are truly a sight to behold.
Rooney’s playmaking and assist work is no secret to the footballing world, but now with a genuine game-winner to feed and play off, that playmaking work is taking on further significance and effectiveness.
The same can be said for Van Persie, who has shown that he can play the role of assist-maker and chance creator for his partner in crime.
United fans have only been afforded two real opportunities to see the duo working in tandem with each other due to the injury suffered by Rooney earlier in the season.
First up was a 3-0 victory on the road to Newcastle United—one of the more formidable road trips to make in the English Premier League.
Rooney and RVP's passes into the attacking third right across the pitch gave them good width against the Toon—width that would eventually prevail into three goals for the visiting side.
It is easy to suggest that had the Magpies defended more effectively from the corner, United would not have scored the opening two goals they did, but it is important to note the width generated from both Van Persie and Rooney in the build-up to both of those goals, as well as the third.
Let us now look at the passes into the attacking third in United’s recent 4-2 victory over Stoke City at Old Trafford. Note also that in this match United played a third striker, Danny Welbeck, who contributed heavily from the left throughout the match also.
In the past two matches that Rooney and RVP have combined together, United have created a staggering 24 goal-scoring chances—11 of which have been from either Rooney or Van Persie (according to WhoScored.com).
We know well their attacking qualities and their goal-scoring threat, but it is has been their combination and chance-making partnership that has been most effective for the Red Devils and will hold them in great stead moving forward.
The partnership as we know it, is still raw. It is still young and both Rooney and Van Persie are still adapting and becoming accustomed to the playing style of the other.
They will take time before they are completely on the same page—something that will come only as a result of hours together on the training ground and in match situations.
The English Premier League is a long season and the race for the title is still many, many weeks away from being decided.
But if this is the partnership and effectiveness that Rooney and Van Persie have put together through just two matches playing together for Manchester United, it is truly a scary thought as to what they could achieve at their peak.
After all, if they can create 24 chances, seven goals and average 60 percent possession against two of the tougher defensive sides in the Premier League, then one can only begin to speculate what they could achieve for Manchester United this year.
Said Van Persie himself of the relationship (per Sky Sports):
We [myself and Rooney] are definitely getting more of an understanding. We like to play together and work well together.
It is only the second or third time that we have played in this formation but offensively and defensively, we help each other out.
We do look exciting going forward.
We can score all sorts of goals from many different angles. That is a good sign and should be a real weapon for us as the season goes on...
One thing is for certain: Sir Alex Ferguson certainly knew what he was doing when he spent £24 million all those weeks ago—especially if it wins another title for United.
Which, with Rooney and Van Persie at the helm of his attack, could very well become reality this season.
What have you made of the Rooney-RVP combination this year?
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