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Opinion Piece

We need to talk about Robin

download (1)As William Shakespeare brilliantly put it, all’s well that ends well.

That was very much the case on Saturday night, as United clinched their first away win of the season and their first against a top four side – admittedly on tradition, rather than current form – since they beat the very same opponent a little over than a year ago.

For the first time in what seems a lifetime United are back in the top four, which is were, realistically, they should be aiming to finish this season, and the sense that things are finally beginning to resume their natural order was further strengthened by a familiar rendition of “Oh what fun it is to see United win away” that shook the away end on Saturday.

Of course, United were far from perfect, in fact they did not even convince for large spells of the first half, but the positives that had tentatively emerged against Chelsea and Manchester City made another appearance at the Emirates. Louis Van Gaal’s team must and will improve but picking up a prized scalps such as Arsenal’s will have done their confidence a world of good.

It is then rather than ironic than as United show signs of finally waking up from the torpor that has engulfed their engine for over a year Рsince beating Arsenal in November, they had picked up a meagre two points over six games against their four main rivals Рthe form of one of their main men continues to plummet.

Robin Van Persie’s form has been cause of concern for over 18 months now. After a stellar debut season at Old Trafford during which he piloted United towards their 20th title, netting 30 goals in the season, the Dutchman’s contribution to the cause has been dwindling and he was a little more than a passenger for the 75 minutes he spent on the pitch against his former club on Saturday, during which he managed just 12 touches.

It has been well documented that Van Persie’s performances last season were affected by Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure at the end of his first campaign in Manchester. Fergie was the reason the Dutchman swapped Arsenal for United and Van Persie did not attempt to disguise his disappointment at seeing David Moyes replacing United’s former manager and while he still managed to score a more than respectable 18 goals, Van Persie looked a shadow of the player he had been 12 months before.

There seemed to be only possible outcome as RVP, after a good World Cup, was joined by Louis Van Gaal at Old Trafford. The eyes of United fans lit up with excitement as the Dutchman scored twice for his country in Brazil and looked a revitalised player under the former Ajax and Bayern Munich man.

Things, however, have not worked out as planned since Van Gaal’s arrival. Despite denying that he needed surgery on his knee this season, Van Persie has struggled with fitness issues and has looked jaded and less dynamic than in the past.

Even more worryingly, despite the arrival of Angel Di Maria and Wayne Rooney rediscovering an excellent vein of form, the Dutchman has struggled to form a meaningful partnership with either, at times drifting wide but failing to open space for his teammates, looking too static through the middle in other occasions.

With Radamel Falcao back in training with the first team and James Wilson obviously highly rated by Van Gaal, Van Persie could soon find himself on the bench. His last minute equaliser against Chelsea has not yet kickstarted his season as many had hoped and he has scored only three goals in 11 games so far.

Van Persie has often described himself as a player who’s at his best when faced by a challenge and competition for a starting spot could reignite the fire that burnt so strongly throughout the 2012-13 season. At 31 years of age and with his contract up in 2015, Van Persie might need to reinvent himself to prolong his United career, as Teddy Sheringham did after arriving from Spurs in 1997.

All’s well that ends well. Here’s hoping Saturday’s win against Arsenal was the start of something for United and their number 20.