Robin van Persie Needs to End Goal Drought to Win Footballer of the Year Awards
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On Sunday, January 20th, I sat at White Hart Lane in the middle of a snow blizzard and watched Robin van Persie score his 22nd goal of the season by peeling off at the back post and planting a header past the Tottenham keeper Hugo Lloris to give Manchester United a 1-0 lead.
He celebrated in front of me, sticking out his tongue and nodding his head to the Tottenham fans who had constantly abused and mocked him for his Arsenal past.
At that moment, he was the form player in British football, the difference between the two Manchester clubs in the title race and guaranteed to take delivery of both of the Footballer of the Year awards.
But in the two months since, Van Persie has experienced an unexpected goal drought, and has only managed one, against Everton at Old Trafford in February, in his next 10 games.
This has not caused Manchester United to falter in the Premier League, and without his goals they have actually extended their lead over Manchester City at the top to what now seems an unassailable 15 points.
"My team-mates all stood up," Van Persie has acknowledged. "Shinji [Kagawa] scored a hat-trick and Wayne produced his usual goals. So that's nice, that it doesn't all go wrong [when I don’t score.]"
However, it was notable Van Persie didn’t score, or have much of an influence in both legs of the Champions League tie against Real Madrid which saw United knocked out of the competition.
This season is destined to have a happy ending with Van Persie picking up his first ever Premier League winner’s medal.
"That I'll probably win my first championship is very nice," Van Persie has said. "I'm really thrilled about it. Not winning titles has given me quite some pain and it has made me greyer.”
But if Van Persie wants to add some personal awards to that probable title medal and fend off the increasingly persuasive claims of Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez, he has to lift himself out of this drought.
If the Dutchman had continued to score at the same rate as the first half of the season, he would be on his way to winning both the PFA Player of the Year and Football Writer’s Footballer of the Year awards by a landslide.
If Van Persie wants this season to be remembered primarily for his goals and helping United regain the title, and not for only playing half a season, and suddenly losing form, then he has to start scoring again.
There is still time. There are a possible 11 games remaining, starting this weekend with the trip to Sunderland, and then the FA Cup quarter-final replay against Chelsea on Monday for Van Persie to make sure both the personal awards he won last season at Arsenal remain on his mantelpiece.
But if the drought continues he will probably find himself in the unfortunate position of having to box up those awards and send them on to North London or Merseyside.
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