Robin van Persie's first season with Manchester United competes with the best debut years in English football history.
The Dutchman—who scored 29 goals in 44 appearances for the Red Devils during the 2012/13 campaign—enjoyed major personal success throughout the team's run to Premier League glory. His acquisition was certainly £24 million well spent by Sir Alex Ferguson, who ascended to the domestic summit once more before calling time on his illustrious career.
Despite contributing massively to Manchester United's success, van Persie still has small areas of improvement to work on. While this article shouldn't be read as a criticism, no player is perfect and can always step up their game with minor changes. Yes, even Old Trafford legend Cristiano Ronaldo can still improve his output with a little tweaking.
So, which areas should van Persie aim to address over the summer?
One of van Persie's greatest abilities is dropping deep to receive the ball. He forces the opposing centre-backs to track him up the pitch and affords Manchester United's wide men extra room by stretching the defence out of position. The former Arsenal man can often be seen picking the ball up around the halfway line and plays most of his game facing away from the goal he is attacking.
While this is extremely useful and allows United to break forward at pace, van Persie is forced to battle against extra pressure in the centre. When a defender echoes his movement and the opposition's midfield challenge him for the ball, simple passing mistakes sometimes occur.
Van Persie's misplaced pass in the 1-1 recent draw with Arsenal is a decent example of this. Although the frontman produces an average of 1.8 key balls throughout every encounter, according to WhoScored?, his overall pass success rate of 80.2 percent is lower than he would like.
In fact, van Persie finished as the 152nd most efficient passer during the 2012/13 Premier League season. A number of incomparable names lay ahead of him on this list, suggesting the 29-year-old needs to sometimes opt for possession retention over the constant creation of chances. With added short-passing accuracy, it's likely a greater number of goalscoring opportunities would appear anyway.
While statistical output shouldn't be considered the Holy Grail of football, numbers tell an important story. Surprisingly, van Persie completed an average of 0.7 dribbles per game throughout all competitions last season. He was dispossessed an average of twice per game and turned the ball over an average of 1.3 times per match.
Similar to the small improvements needed with van Persie's passing, this is largely down to his willingness to take control of possession all over the pitch. The Dutch international often gains the ball in areas where he is out of position and surrounded by various opponents.
With Wayne Rooney also dropping deep from an attacking midfield position, large gaps often appear, meaning van Persie has to dribble away from trouble.
The player's teammates could help out here. If David Moyes is able to sign someone in the build of Thiago Alcantara, his natural movement and willingness to relieve pressure from van Persie will see the striker stop trying to regularly dribble around three or four opponents in unfavourable areas.
Van Persie was perhaps lucky to not receive his marching orders last season. He racked up six yellow cards throughout the Premier League campaign and often walked a tightrope after committing too eagerly to a challenge.
He was booked in both games against Arsenal, as well as matches against Liverpool, Newcastle, Swansea and Sunderland. Luis Suarez, Grant Holt and Christian Benteke were the only forwards to notch more cautions throughout the season, according to WhoScored?. Although van Persie is not a dirty player, he has the capacity to put United's strategy of defending from the front in jeopardy by lunging carelessly.
The rest of the improvements on this list are small, so this one should be considered miniscule. Despite scoring many important goals for United throughout 2012/13, van Persie failed to net for nine matches from 13 Feb. to 8 April.
This two-month period will have bugged van Persie rotten. As reported by Chris Wheeler of the Daily Mail, Sir Alex Ferguson told the struggling forward to hit the ball as hard as he can, and a few days later, his drought was over.
Even so, van Persie had key opportunities to win the Champions League Round of 16 tie with Real Madrid. He knows it, as confirmed by Jamie Lewis of The Independent. World-class players can do 100 things right, and it is always going to be the single mistake that lingers in the memory. For RVP, maintaining goalscoring consistency throughout the season will easily see him surpass the 30 mark.
Many of the small improvements van Persie needs to make are based on his activeness within each game. He is always looking to receive the ball, dictate play and set his teammates up with goalscoring chances.
He places greater pressure on himself by regularly dropping back to the halfway line; a trait that United fans shouldn't want to alter. Instead, a slight change of personnel within the Old Trafford midfield could stop the Dutchman from trying to do too much.
With players such as Thiago, Kevin Strootman or Marouane Fellaini potentially sitting alongside Michael Carrick, van Persie's second season could improve on a first year that football fans will remember for years to come.