Is Robin Van Persie a Better Player Than Wayne Rooney?

Simon EdmondsCorrespondent IJanuary 4, 2013

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 20:  Wayne Rooney of Manchester United celebrates scoring to make it 1-1 with Robin van Persie during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Stoke City at Old Trafford on October 20, 2012 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

When Robin van Persie joined Manchester United from Arsenal back in August, the first thought that crossed my mind was how it would affect the Old Trafford hierarchy.

For several years now Wayne Rooney has been the talisman of the club; representing the image of the Red Devils across the globe as well as producing their highest quality of football on the pitch.

But with the introduction of RVP, has all that changed? Is van Persie now the face of United and possibly even their best player?

Undoubtedly on the surface it seems as though that may be the case. Van Persie’s goal’s have seen the Dutchman fly up the Premier League scoring charts—netting a whopping 16 in the league already this year.

Not only that, but van Persie’s build-up play has also resulted in the 29-year-old becoming the joint third-best assister in the league also this season, with the creation of six goal-scoring chances to his name.

In theory then, that should be the end of the debate. RVP has collectively scored and assisted more goals than anyone else in the whole of the top flight of English football so far this campaign.  Certainly Rooney has been no slouch in this department either (netting seven goals and earning seven assists), but even those statistics cannot match up when compared to the league’s top scorer.

But despite this apparently obvious superiority, the debate over who the better player is should definitely not be so casually cleared up with offensive facts and figures. Without doubt, goals are important in football matches, and this season RVP has shown that he may well have been a better offensive player than Rooney thus far.

However, part of being an amazing all-round footballer is your ability to play the game to a high quality standard no matter what position you’re playing on the pitch. And with that in mind, Rooney may be one of the best all-round footballers that the world has ever seen.

It’s no secret to the United faithful that on more than one occasion Rooney has had to abandon his goal-scoring aspirations in a match in order to either track back or spend some time helping the defence organise itself, or sometimes even bolstering the midfield; playing as more of a holding midfielder at times.

Rooney really can do it all.

I think the easiest way to surmise why Rooney is a better all-round player than RVP is by picturing a team of van Persie’s facing off against a team of Rooney’s.

Certainly going forward, the RVP team might have the edge over the Rooney attack, with some crisp passing and a devilish turn of foot that has seen defences across the globe tremble in their boots over the past two years. However, that solid offence would be coming up against a surprisingly decent defence in the shape of four burly and hard-hitting Liverpudlians.

In contrast, RVP’s one possible flaw in his game is his seeming inability to ever get back and defend. Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an actual criticism of van Persie’s efforts on the pitch. After all, the man is United’s most lethal striker, and so it would make sense that he doesn’t track back often when the likes of Rooney are already doing that for him. Still, the point remains. RVP does not have much defensive know-how.

The Rooney midfielders and forwards would have a field day with this, and whilst the RVP attack would bag a few goals, their defence would leak far more.

Rooney’s versatility has meant that for the past nine years he has become one of the most important players in the Premier League in general, let alone just at Manchester United.

Van Persie is a world-class talent. He is without question the best striker not only at Old Trafford, but throughout the whole of England right now. His link-up play with teammates is a site to behold, and a better first touch of the ball may not exist in world football right now.

However, despite all of that, Rooney is just the complete package. He may not be quite as good as RVP in terms of pure goal-scoring ability, but what that man can’t do on a football pitch isn’t worth learning anyway.

And for that reason, Rooney is United’s best all-round player. 

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