With another display of late-game heroics, there is no longer any doubt that Robin van Persie was the best signing made by any English Premier League team this season.
The Dutchman was England’s best striker last season with a league-leading 30 goals. Still, there were many questions about Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to spend £24 million on van Persie.
Can he stay healthy? Is £24 million too much to pay for a 29-year-old player? Will he be able to coexist with Wayne Rooney? So far, van Persie has provided resounding answers to all of his doubters.
His latest achievement came on a curling free kick in stoppage time that worked its way into the far corner of Joe Hart’s goal and gave United a 3-2 victory over Manchester City.
Through 16 games, van Persie’s 11 goals put him second to Swansea’s Michu (Miguel Perez Cuesta) in the race for this season’s top scorer. But just as telling is that Rooney leads the Premiership with seven assists.
With van Persie playing as a centre-forward, Rooney has been able to drop further down the pitch and play more as a distributor. He has occupied the attacking midfielder role as well as anyone in the Premier League.
The Dutch striker's impact on United’s offense has been remarkable. The Red Devils have scored 37 goals this season and place first in this category. Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham are all tied for second with just 28 goals.
There is certainly stiff competition for the league’s best signing, but none can claim to have had this impressive of a start to the season.
Michu’s 12 goals for Swansea have certainly given the club a fantastic boost, but he has not yet produced signature moments like van Persie’s late goals against Southampton and City.
Santi Cazorla has taken van Persie’s place as the focal point of Arsenal’s attack, but he has fewer goals and assists than the former Gunners’ star.
Eden Hazard appeared ready to establish himself as the league’s best signing at the beginning of the season, but he was not immune to the slump that has swept over Chelsea in recent weeks, and his form has trailed off since his hot start.
Since arriving at Old Trafford, van Persie has helped reform the United attack and turn it into the most feared and productive lineup in England. He has been remarkably productive and has not shied away from important moments.
A world-class striker needs signature goals in important games, and van Persie's most recent strike is far and away the most crucial goal he has scored for United. It gave the Red Devils a six-point lead atop the table and a victory over its most hated rival.
The goal was a massive moment in this EPL season, and it comes on the heels of a campaign characterized by steady production. At this point, van Persie is undoubtedly this year’s best signing.