Manchester United legend Gary Neville believes Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie will fail to work together as a partnership until the club uses wide players who can service them.
Falcao and van Persie have struggled in recent games and don’t appear to have an understanding. Against West Ham United earlier this month, the duo’s movement was minimal and they were dealt with easily by the Hammers defence. In last week’s 3-1 win over Burnley, Falcao failed to register a single shot.
Neville says the pair have been far below their best but United aren’t helping them by being reluctant to play down the wings.
Speaking about Falcao and van Persie, Neville said: “This idea that United are lucky is wrong. Luck expires in an unbeaten run after three or four games. One defeat in 19 is not luck. Then again some of the big signings of the last 18 months are still well below their peak. They are not performing anywhere near full tilt.
“That’s a concern. In the next two or three months those star names have to perform or will find themselves under pressure. Rooney is always central to these discussions, and seeing him go back to centre-forward last Monday at Preston tells me that the Van Persie-Falcao centre-forward experiment has probably ended. I’m not saying you will never see them again as a duo but it doesn’t seem to work.
“There is a particular movement that tells a story. When the ball goes out to Shaw or Valencia in the advanced full-back area, those two forwards in a split-striker system need to make a ‘corner run’, in between centre-back and full-back: first, to give a forward-passing option to Valencia or Shaw, and second to stretch the defence and open space in midfield.
“Both those players – Van Persie and Falcao – are sometimes unable or unwilling to make those runs. Inevitably the ball then gets passed backwards. I think this can be directly linked to the lack of movement into wide areas from United’s strikers. This small change of movements would give more purpose to United’s play.
“In this current system, then, Rooney is a better bet at centre-forward. If Van Persie and Falcao are going to play as a pair, you would need to play with wide players who would service them. They are both box players who lack mobility and blistering pace.”
Van Persie missed the Preston game through injury but is now fit and will be looking to go straight back into the starting XI against Swansea. The Dutchman’s inclusion may mean Wayne Rooney is dropped back into midfield in what would be seen as a negative move by United fans.