Manchester United

Robin van Persie Criticises Manchester United Teammates After Olympiakos Defeat

Manchester United's Robin Van Persie runs with the ball  during a Champions League, round of 16, first leg soccer match against  Olympiakos at Georgios Karaiskakis stadium, in Piraeus port, near Athens, on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Petros Giannakouris/Associated Press
Nick AkermanFeatured ColumnistFebruary 26, 2014

Robin van Persie took a swipe at his teammates following Manchester United's hapless 2-0 defeat to Olympiakos on Tuesday.

The striker remained on the periphery during an embarrassing Champions League night in Greece. Van Persie suggested the positioning of his colleagues limited his ability to drop and receive the ball, as told to Dutch television channel NOS and reported by Craig Hope of the Daily Mail:

Our fellow players are sometimes occupying the spaces I want to play in.

And when I see that, it makes it difficult for me to come to those spaces as well. So that forces me to adjust my runs, based on the position of my fellow players. And, unfortunately, they are often playing in my zones. I think that's a shame.

As recorded by Opta and posted on Twitter via The 4th Official, van Persie managed just 24 touches all night:

The gaggle of touches in the middle of the pitch were from kick-off, suggesting he successfully dropped to the halfway line just once throughout the agonising defeat. Van Persie was forced to try to track down the ball in Olympiakos' half and managed just three touches inside the opposition's area.

Many fans will remember exactly what these touches looked like. The striker struggled to latch onto a misplaced Danny Welbeck flick toward the end of the match, just getting a toe to the ball as Roberto collected.

PIRAEUS, GREECE - FEBRUARY 25:  (L-R) Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and Robin van Persie  of Manchester United react as they restart the game after conceding the first goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Olympiacos FC
Michael Regan/Getty Images

His other touches could have been the most telling of the night for United. Van Persie controlled and skied an excellent chance with his right foot, providing the Red Devils with little hope of turning the tie around. The forward hinted at frustration toward his teammates when explaining the missed chance:

"I rushed that shot," said van Persie. "That's a shame because I don't get a lot of chances, so when you get one, you have to score."

Van Persie then told the press David Moyes is "working hard" at improving the team before saying he wouldn't blame one individual for United's lack of quality this season.

PIRAEUS, GREECE - FEBRUARY 25:  Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on before the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Olympiacos FC and Manchester United at Karaiskakis Stadium on February 25, 2014 in Piraeus, Greece.  (Photo
Michael Regan/Getty Images

The player's initial comments hint at disarray within the United camp. He is an individual who so often drops deep to take control of possession and whisks the team forward with powerful drives up the pitch, but he was left isolated against an extremely hard-working Olympiakos outfit.

Van Persie has been linked with a sensational return to Arsenal in recent weeks, per Metro. Although this seems highly unlikely due to the animosity surrounding his departure from the Emirates, it's performances like United's recent defeat that ensure such rumours gain momentum.

United face a difficult task if they are to advance beyond the Champions League round of 16. A 3-0 turnaround is needed in the Old Trafford leg to ensure passage, but this looks very unlikely considering the team's recent performance.

Moyes, who lacked ambition, creativity or any indication that his strategical nous is improving in the United dugout, will be forced to play all-out attacking football when the Greek Super League leaders visit England.

He should also ensure van Persie isn't wasted as the unreachable spearhead of a team that needs its star striker to exert his influence as often as possible.

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