“I always listen to the little boy inside of me in these situations – when you have to make the harder decisions in life. What does he want? That boy was screaming for Man United.” Robin Van Persie, 17 August 2012
Robin Van Persie is going grey. Manchester United’s superstar who last year almost single-handedly lead his team to their 20th league title (and his first) has had an exasperating start to the season thanks to injuries and form. If rumours are to be believed, his frustrations may go far deeper than a simple groin strain.
According to a recent claims made by Mark Lawrenson, Van Persie wants out of United. Of course, comments made by a former Liverpool player who is currently being gently eased out of the BBC’s football coverage must be taken with a hefty handful of salt but it forced a reaction from David Moyes who responded in anger to the ‘absolute nonsense’ rumours.
And yet, United fans have been unable to totally shake the rumour from their minds. Would it, after all, be all that surprising if Van Persie did actually want out of Old Trafford?
This, after all, is hardly the United that the Dutchman joined for £24 million last year. Crucially, that was a side managed by Sir Alex Ferguson, a man whose immense pull should never be underestimated. One of Van Persie’s key motivations behind joining the club was to work with United’s great former manager who worryingly revealed in his recent autobiography had told Van Persie that he would be at United for another three years. Ultimately, of course, he decided to call it a day after just one.
Rumours are also abound that Van Persie is unhappy with David Moyes’ training regime which prioritises running and endurance over pretty much everything else. Whilst such a system appears to have worked wonders for Rooney, Van Persie seems unsuited to such demanding programmes. The Dutchman, after all, is notoriously injury prone. Indeed, it is amazing that he lasted the best part of the last two seasons without any lengthy layoff.
In contrast, Ferguson always trusted Van Persie to arrange his own training regimes and often allowed him to prepare separately from the rest of the squad to ensure he was firing on all cylinders come match day. With such arrangements gone, Van Persie has struggled with injury and rarely looked at his sharpest when he has made it on to the pitch. Several experts have warned that further injuries for the striker are inevitable this season.
More importantly, Van Persie may be looking around his dressing room and meeting the eyes of players he feels are no longer capable of helping him achieve his remaining ambition in club football, of winning the Champions League. United’s sluggish start to the season, which has been characterised by unadventurous attacking play and shaky defending, has led many to believe the club are in precipitous decline. Without Van Persie, the team looks short of cutting-edge class, a view many United fans expressed after his absence from last week’s 1-0 defeat to Everton. How long United will be able to attract or retain truly world class talent remains to be seen.
Ultimately, Van Persie’s imminent departure from the club does seem unlikely but isn’t impossible. He has several years left on his four year contract and, as an injury prone 30 year-old, would perhaps struggle to secure such a lucrative contract elsewhere. Additionally, his blossoming relationship with Rooney may be enough to keep him sufficiently excited by the club’s development for the time being. The pair have scored 15 goals between them this season and their prospering partnership has the potential to yield further thrilling results.
Still, Van Persie will be demanding drastic improvements from his team mates. United fans should not fool themselves into thinking he will forever remain loyal to the team with which he won his first league title. Motivated by achievement and success over anything else, it is not unthinkable that Van Persie could decide to depart if his team mates continue to fall short of the high standards he consistently demonstrates himself.