Could Robin van Persie's Time at Manchester United Be Coming to an End?

Rob Blanchette@@_Rob_BFeatured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2014

Sir Alex Ferguson's last piece of big business as manager of Manchester United was quite possibly the most amazing, shrewd move of his career. The signing of Robin van Persie was both shocking and sensational.

On completion of his £24 million capture from Arsenal, Fergie said, per BBC Sport: "We never thought we could get Van Persie. If you go back six months ago, I couldn't see us getting him."

Van Persie himself waxed lyrical about his arrival, per the BBC: 

It's an honour to sign for Manchester United. I am looking forward to following in the footsteps of so many great strikers, bringing my experience and playing my part to help the team compete for the biggest trophies in the game. I can't wait to get started. ... Manchester United breathes football. If you look at all the players from Manchester United, the stadium, the manager - my choice was made very soon in my mind.

Nine months on from that statement, RVP was celebrating his first Premier League title, justifying the leap of faith he took by leaving London for the North West. 

However, fast-forward just another eight months, and things seem very different. Last summer marred the allure of RVP finishing his career under the greatest manager of all time, instead leaving him with a leader who has not won a major trophy in football.

Substituting Arsene Wenger for Ferguson is one thing. Trading places for David Moyes is another. 

As Sir Alex informed his players of his immediate retirement, Van Persie commented, per Sky Sports: "I had to gasp for breath and I shook my head. Had he really said what I thought he'd said? The room fell deathly quiet and then everyone became emotional."

Ferguson's monumental decision last May has compromised Van Persie's later years as a footballer. So, too, has one other worrying element that has been consistent throughout the Dutchman's career: his susceptibility to injury.

The player's 11 league games this season have still returned an impressive seven goals, but it is the matches he has missed that will concern David Moyes.

Moyes has publicly refuted that Van Persie is now unhappy at Old Trafford, per BBC Sport. Van Persie himself has backed his manager, calling for him to be given time and patience, per the Daily Mail.

However, will it be Moyes who pulls the plug on Van Persie, rather than the other way round?

As the worry and paranoia begins again surrounding Wayne Rooney's future, Mark Ogden of The Telegraph restated that United remain determined not to sell the England forward. Thus, it could be Van Persie moving on if Rooney expresses a wish to be the first-choice striker at the club. 

The Liverpudlian has enjoyed the limelight in Van Persie's absence. There has previously been little evidence to support the notion that they could play as true partners.

Rooney has had the opportunity to form partnerships in the past, whether for United or England, but rarely has he gelled with a colleague to form a genuine strike pairing. It did not work with Ruud van Nistelrooy, Louis Saha, Carlos Tevez or Dimitar Berbatov, and it did not work with Michael Owen for club or country. Why should it work with Van Persie?

It failed to materialise during the last campaign, as Rooney had an indifferent season. Van Persie has recently talked up their potential partnership, per The Independent, but they've been colleagues for 18 months and we have yet to see what they can do as a unit. 

Rooney's inability to accommodate another striker could be RVP's undoing at United.

Last year Ferguson opted for Van Persie, moving Rooney into a different position. This resulted in the team cantering to the title and Rooney proverbially throwing his toys out of the pram. His body language was clear for all to see. 

However, Rooney is now the main man once again, and with contract talks imminent, he can make demands as to where he plays, if he decides to stay. 

Moyes' greatest achievement during this difficult first year might be finding a tactic that allows him to play both players to their maximum capacities together and thereby finishing the season strongly.

But if Moyes thinks he cannot accommodate both strikers in his system and Rooney is his preference, it could be the Dutchman who is removed from the wage bill to make way for a big signing for his shattered squad.

With United struggling to make the top four, a revamp of ideas will be needed for next season's campaign, and a reliance on an injury-prone striker may be something Moyes does not want to pursue. 

Van Persie's continued unavailability could be enough to force Moyes to radically rethink his attack. Also, with the development of Danny Welbeck and the goal threat of Chicharito, there is still the option of investing heavily on the midfield, even if the Dutchman is sacrificed. 

As good as Van Persie is, his age counts against him, and when this is coupled with the threat of injury, he suddenly does not look like a good bet to be part of the foundation on which a football club is built. 

It is highly doubtful that Van Persie would leave during this January window, but with major investment planned in the summer, it is not unthinkable that he will be sold.

If the Glazers do intend to spend huge money on marquee players, such as the proposed £37 million transfer of Juan Mata, per Jason Burt of The Telegraph, then significant room will have to be made on the wage bill. 

Van Persie's immediate future will be decided in the coming months. If he can prove to his manager that his fitness will not be an ongoing concern, Moyes' confidence in him may bloom.

However, as things stand, the United manager has a very expensive footballer unable to contribute to the fight. That may force Moyes to look elsewhere as he builds for the future and attempts to hold onto Rooney in the process.


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