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Manchester United: Why Robin van Persie Is the Premier League's Best Forward

Max TowleAnalyst IOctober 9, 2016

Manchester United: Why Robin van Persie Is the Premier League's Best Forward

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    Though Manchester United ultimately came up short in its attempts to down a plucky Tottenham Hotspur Sunday, one couldn't help but see the positives from the result.

    It was a point gained in an away game against a team beginning to show their true potential under new boss Andre Villas-Boas.

    But perhaps the greatest positive was the familiar sight of Robin van Persie bursting the opposition net for the 18th time this season.

    Since making the controversial £24 million transfer from Arsenal in the summer, he has gone from strength to strength at Old Trafford, scoring goals for fun.

    Here are a few reasons why he's currently the best forward in the Premier League.

The Rivals

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    By saying that Robin van Persie is the best of his position in Britain, one must first give credit to those who stand in his shadow.

    Here are six forwards who rival the Dutchman for the honour—six forwards who are top-quality footballers, but not quite as transcendant as Van Persie:

     

    Luis Suarez

    16 goals in 22 appearances this season for Liverpool.

     

    Sergio Aguero

    8 goals in 19 appearances this season for Manchester City.

     

    Demba Ba

    13 goals in 20 appearances this season for Newcastle United and Chelsea.

     

    Michu

    13 goals in 22 appearances this season for Swansea City.

     

    Edin Dzeko

    10 goals in 20 appearances this season for Manchester City.

     

    Jermain Defoe

    10 goals in 23 appearances this season for Tottenham Hotspur.

1. Finishing

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    Following on from the theme in the previous slide, Robin van Persie's strike rate this season has been quite magnificent.

    Not only has he scored more goals than any player currently plying their trade in the Premier League, his goals-per-appearances record makes him top dog, too.

    This term he has struck 18 times on the 23 occasions he has taken the field, three of which were cameos from the Manchester United bench.

    That's a 0.78 strike rate, incredible considering he has taken only 3.7 shots per game. Compare that with Liverpool's world-class forward Luis Suarez, who has attempted 5.9 shots per game and scored fewer goals.

    Averaging a goal every 103 minutes, Robin van Persie is as clinical as he is prolific in front of goal.

     

    (All stats via WhoScored.com and EPLIndex.com).

2. Clutch

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    Of the 18 goals Van Persie has struck this term, as many as eight have come in the final 20 minutes of matches.

    As well as bagging late goals against Sporting Braga, Newcastle United, West Bromwich Albion and West Ham, he's scored crucial winners to down the likes of Southampton, Liverpool and Manchester City.

    Stretching back to Sir Alex Ferguson's early years at the club, Manchester United have long held the reputation of late-show specialists.

    In this respect, the Dutchman has fitted snugly into the Red Devils way of thinking—that the game is never over until the referee blows his whistle.

3. Versatility

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    Some had doubts, if you can believe it, that Robin van Persie would be able to adapt to the Manchester United way of playing because he had operated in Arsene Wenger's system for so long.

    But the speed at which the Dutchman has settled in and thrived in his new surroundings has perhaps even taken the optimists by surprise.

    He was the focal point of Arsenal's pass-and-move, rapier-thrust attack, and is now the focal point of the Red Devils' overwhelm the opposition, use the full width of the pitch, attack.

    It is more than that, though. RVP can have as much influence on a game from a deep position as he can as a lone striker.

    The hitman can score goals with his head, play the poacher, crack a long-range howitzer and even bag the odd tap-in. He is the complete forward who uses his versatility to thrive in any environment.

    Borussia Dortmund's respected manager Jurgen Klopp said as much this past week in an interview with UEFA.com, claiming Van Persie is "the best forward ever. I didn't know a player could play three positions during 90 minutes" (h/t Football Australia).

4. Big-Game Player

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    Cometh the hour, cometh Robin van Persie. When Manchester United has needed him to step-up to the plate in the most important games, he has delivered.

    This term he has scored vital goals against Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City—five of the Red Devils' biggest rivals.

    Sir Alex's side have not had the best record against top-six opposition in previous seasons, but with the Dutchman on board, that is no longer the case.

    With a clash with Real Madrid in the Champions League looming on the horizon, fans of the club are beginning to feel far more optimistic about the fixture than they would have been in the pre-Van Persie era.

5. Team Player

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    There can be little doubt that Robin van Persie has quickly become a key, but more importantly, a trusted member of the Manchester United squad.

    A player's influence on the training ground can be as important as his contribtutions on the pitch.

    Roy Keane once remarked of fellow club legend Eric Cantona that "behind the enigma he was a great pro, serious and knowledgeable. The players loved him. I had never seen anybody finish like him and still haven't" (via Daily Mail).

    Withdrawing the "enigma" remark, Keane's quotes could almost be an exact description of Van Persie, whose behind-the-scenes impact on the Red Devils has been huge.

    The forward himself told MUTV earlier this month that "this is a special team. Everybody wants to help each other. Everybody's keen for everyone to score. I feel that I'm surrounded by champions" (h/t Sky Sports).

    At first, it was difficult for some (myself included) to get used to the sight of the Dutchman in a United shirt. Now it's hard to imagine it any other way.

6. Experience

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    Manchester United's transfer market policy has been a "buy em' young then train em' up" type of philosophy in recent years.

    But Sir Alex Ferguson felt compelled to betray that line of thinking in the summer when Robin van Persie became available—the 29-year-old becoming one of the oldest players that the Scotsman has brought to the club during his illustrious reign.

    Together with his fully fledged talent, the forward has brought valuable experience to Old Trafford, even if his isn't necessarily a winning one.

    Before last season, Van Persie struggled to get through an entire campaign for the Gunners without picking up some sort of injury problem.

    His trophy cabinet is mostly bare as well. He has an FA Cup winner's medal to his name and that's about it.

    He has come to win.

    At 29 years of age he knows full well that glory has to come now, otherwise he runs the risk of retiring an underachiever.

    It is the Dutchman's hunger for silverware that made him move to Manchester, the same hunger that fuels his continued excellence at the highest level.

     

    Do you think Robin van Persie is the best forward in the Premier League? If not him, who?

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