Robin van Persie's future as a Manchester United player is in the spotlight as many media outlets focus on disturbances caused by the Dutchman's loss of form and apparent discontent.
Substituted after a frustrating 63 minutes during the recent win over West Brom, van Persie was lucky to remain on the pitch at all after luckily avoiding a second yellow card. David Moyes' decision to remove the former Arsenal striker early paid dividends, as noted by Laurie Whitwell of the Daily Mail:
Moyes said afterwards the substitution had been planned but a shake of the head from the player as he left the pitch seemed to contradict that notion. Yet it was a required switch. Van Persie had grown frustrated with his performance, littered with mis-controls, and Welbeck’s introduction invigorated United, who were 1-0 up through a Phil Jones header.
Is Robin van Persie currently a hindrance at Manchester United?
Danny Welbeck entered proceedings to great effect, galvanising United's energy in attack. The Englishman appeared hungry for the ball, not entitled, and linked excellently with Wayne Rooney—who found himself in a similar situation to van Persie this time last year.
While Rooney recently penned a £300,000-a-week deal to remain at the club, per Phil McNulty of BBC Sport, van Persie is unlikely to receive such a payday if things continue to spiral. At 30 years old he is expected to lead the team, not publicly criticise them, as he did to Dutch television station NOS after the Champions League defeat to Olympiacos, per Craig Hope of the Daily Mail.
Although van Persie has scored four in his last nine matches, according to WhoScored.com, his overall play appears sloppy. His zero attempts on goal against the Baggies was indicative of a player who isn't splitting the defence with forward-thinking runs, a factor highlighted when Welbeck injected a burst of enthusiasm into the team.
Individual success has to be put aside at difficult times like this for United. The squad is struggling in sixth and is unlikely to make next season's Champions League, but the players must work together to ensure improvement as we head toward the summer.
Alan Hansen believes RvP's attitude combats against this kind of unity, as noted in his column for The Telegraph:
United need everybody pulling for one common cause, however, and all of the noises around Van Persie are currently to the detriment of the team. When everything was going well last season, there were no hints of unhappiness or efforts to move away, but then you only truly find out about people when things are going badly.
Stuart James of The Guardian also believes van Persie "could have no complaints" with Moyes' decision to remove him early from the Hawthorns pitch as it became obvious the experienced forward has grown completely frustrated.
Twitter discussion has also grown frustrated with the player's obvious annoyance, as highlighted by Darren Richman of The Independent:
As @NickDixxon pointed out, the little boy inside Robin van Persie has become a petulant teenager.— Darren Richman (@darrenrichman) March 10, 2014
In the past van Persie has told supporters to have patience for Moyes (per The Sun, via Sky Sports):
"He is new and needs time. He's working hard and so are we," van Persie is quoted by The Sun.
"It's easy to point at the manager but that's not who I am. We need to do it on the pitch."
United face Liverpool, Olympiacos, West Ham and Manchester City across their next four games, all matches in which van Persie should be expected to make a difference. Although securing four victories is unlikely, there's no doubt United would scrub some of their dirt away from a season that has been muddied with miscues.
Van Persie has the capability to make a difference in each of these matches. The spotlight is on his every move and reaction right now, an occurrence that means he must be on best behaviour. If he isn't, the Dutch hitman may give Moyes little choice in the summer.