After an impressive 3-0 victory away at West Bromwich Albion on March 8, Manchester United were full of confidence ahead of welcoming their fiercest rivals, Liverpool, to Old Trafford. But it was the Merseyside club that dominated proceedings from first minute to last, leaving Robin van Persie and United once again in the depths of football misery.
In a first half bossed by Liverpool, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the Dutchman wasn't even on the Old Trafford pitch. Not that van Persie was so bad that he shouldn't have been, but United were so outplayed by Brendan Rogers' side that he may as well have stayed in bed on a sunny Sunday in Manchester.
This tweet from WhoScored.com summed up just how little an impact he had:
But after Steven Gerrard converted a 34th-minute penalty following Rafael's handball, United suddenly sprung to life and van Persie found himself with a job or two on his hands before the break. After seeing a few of his own attempts on goal blocked, the 30-year-old was instrumental in carving out the only chance of the half for United.
Ahead of Sunday's Old Trafford clash, fans were expecting a textbook van Persie performance against a side that he's enjoyed playing against of late. According to OptaJoe on Twitter, van Persie had scored six goals in his last seven Premier League starts against Liverpool before Sunday's defeat:
6 - Robin van Persie has scored six goals in his last seven Premier League starts against Liverpool. Polished.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 16, 2014
I'm afraid that's as good as it got for van Persie and United, who fell two goals behind when Gerrard once again found the target from the spot on 46 minutes, only for the Liverpool skipper to miss a third penalty for his hat-trick with 78 minutes on the clock.
Luis Suarez then completed the rout with seven minutes to go, giving van Persie a free lesson in finishing in the process. According to WhoScored, van Persie had just 27 touches on the ball and four shots, though not one of them was on target.
Van Persie looked a shadow of his former self when chances eventually did come his way, particularly when linking up with Rooney midway through the second half for a headed chance that trickled wide of the mark.
Not that van Persie's recent form warrants comparisons with barn-door accuracy, but you'd expect a lot more from a player of his quality. A United fan on Twitter, The Red Side, voiced his or her disgust with the Dutchman's performance, while rival fans like Piers Morgan had every right to mock it:
Robin Van Persie & Michael Carrick have strolled around the pitch today. Not good enough, not acceptable when you wear that shirt— The Red Side (@The_Red_Side) March 16, 2014
Oh dear, Van Pursestrings... didn't that little boy inside teach you how to head the ball while he did all that screaming? @Persie_Official— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) March 16, 2014
So it was a sobering experience for United, who really didn't need another one of those this season. And if they can't get van Persie firing on all cylinders as he did during the last campaign, then things are going to get a lot worse before they get better at Old Trafford.