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Reliant Robin – Van Persie already leaving his mark

For all the players that Sir Alex Ferguson has brought through the Old Trafford door during his unrivaled tenure at Manchester United, few signings have captured the imagination or whetted the appetite more than this Summer’s acquisition of the former Arsenal marksman, Robin Van Persie. If we cast a glance at some of Ferguson’s previous eye-catching signings, there was huge anticipation surrounding the Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Dimitar Berbatov deals, Van Persie’s transfer went one step beyond. The Red half of Manchester was in a state of euphoria, this was more than a signing… it was a coup and a statement of intent. Van Persie’s signing was, in part, designed to eradicate the painful May memories. The goal difference that dramatically swung the title in City’s favour was one of Ferguson’s more bitter pills to swallow. He has since promised that the title would not be lost in such a fashion again. Van Persie arrived at Old Trafford to a well-stocked attacking department. With Welbeck, Rooney and Javier Hernandez already at his disposal, the key for Ferguson is to find a blend of balance and attacking verve to get the best out of a mouth-watering attacking quartet. It is not callous to say that Van Persie carried Arsenal through his last season with them. He plundered 30 goals during a campaign which saw him complete every league game, despite his previous injury aberrations, this gave Ferguson the reassurances that Van Persie’s signing would not represent a massive gamble, many pointing to the fact Van Persie had no discernible sell-on value and the fee Arsenal received was apparently extortionate was someone who was 28 at the time. Having spent eight seasons at Arsenal, only winning one trophy, no-one could begrudge him for wanting to move to a club that had a greater chance of success. In Arsenal’s seven year trophy-barren spell, United have won nine trophies: four Premier League titles, the Champions League, three League Cups and the World Club Cup. It was a somewhat refreshing change of tune from the stereotyped modern-day footballer, that Van Persie turned down an obscene salary proposal from the noisy neighbours (believed to be around £300,000 per week) for footballing reasons. Van Persie knew he would almost certainly be guaranteed to be one of the first names on Ferguson’s team-sheet, something which is not a given on the Blue half. Upon signing Van Persie outlined his delight at joining United, “When I have to make tough decisions in my life I listen to the little boy inside me,”. “That little boy was screaming ‘Manchester United’. Manchester United breathes football. This club is the perfect match for me.” From the outset he said exactly the right things, things United fans wanted to hear. The immediate first thought amongst many United fans following the signing of Van Persie was the prospect of a Van Persie/Rooney double act, two of the world’s best strikers working in tandem, striking fear into defenders not only domestically but also worldwide. This partnership had only previously been seen in fantasy football teams, so to see it in the flesh with both entering their peak years should ensure that we are treated to a goal avalanche in the coming years. It is simply a surreal sight to see the Dutch master play alongside Rooney, many believe it will not stop being surreal, probably the only thing to top this would be to see a certain winger from Real Madrid make a homecoming. The Rooney/Van Persie partnership was initially truncated, Van Persie was eased into our opening fixture against Everton due to a lack of a pre-season, Rooney was named amongst the substitutes when Van Persie made his Old Trafford bow against Fulham, in the process scoring one of the best debut goals to grace Old Trafford. Rooney came on only to suffer a horrific injury. Rooney’s omission led to the 2+2=5 equation that is commonplace with the English media. Some journalists claimed Van Persie had been signed to replace Rooney, Rooney had supposed received a bloody nose from the arrival of another world-class striker, would he upstaged as the main man? This forced Rooney to take to Twitter to quash any exit talk, and made him hungrier than ever to ensure the partnership could deliver on it’s obvious potential. Reliant Robin has just carried on from last season in many ways, going about his business, enjoying his football and scoring goals from all angles. He has already bagged his first United hat-trick, in a typical United comeback victory over Southampton, and already got cult status joining O’Shea, Ferdinand, Forlan and others in scoring a winner against Liverpool. Once Rooney returned from injury, their partnership was about to take off. There seems to be a natural harmony and innate understanding in their partnership, very much of the Cole/Yorke ilk in our Treble campaign. Rooney and Van Persie are complete players, they do not just possess lethal finishing, but also the ability to play-make and provide for other team members. They seem to dovetail each other so well, as you would expect given their supreme talent, similarities in style and both donning a natural footballing brain. First evidence of this took place in Romania, our winning goal that night was a stunning link-up between the two, Van Persie already knew where Rooney would place the ball, it was a wonderfully measured chip over the Romanian defence and an equally delicate finish from the Dutchman to secure a crucial three points. The way they celebrate together shows that there is no fluke about their immediate adaptation to each other’s games, the key to their thriving partnership has been the quick understanding. In our most recent league outing, our attacking display against a very physical Stoke City defence was simply scintillating. Yes, our defending leaves a lot to be desired at present and we need to shore up our back-line against the attacking vibrancy of Chelsea, but when we attack presently, we look as menacing as anyone in world football. Rooney and Van Persie were imperious, and another encouraging thing was their ability to involve Danny Welbeck in as much of the play as possible. It could be argued that Van Persie’s signing was a bit harsh on local lad Welbeck, who had previously enjoyed a breakthrough season, forming a promising duet with Rooney. Welbeck is the future though, Van Persie is for now. Van Persie’s presence at the club will have a positive effect on Welbeck, as it will make him (and Chicharito) more determined than ever to prove to the manager he is deserving a place in our side. One aberration in Welbeck’s overall game is his finishing, he has the eye for the spectacular but the bread and butter of composure in the box and burying the easier chances sometimes eludes him. Watching RVP and Rooney in training every day will surely see a marked improvement in that aspect. Stoke could not live with our wave of attacks, Rooney and Van Persie carved a normally solid defence open on numerous occasions, Van Persie’s cross for Rooney’s equaliser was divine, as good as it gets, that comes with both players being on each other’s wavelength. Rooney and Van Persie have played their part in 71% of our goals this season, be that goals and assists. On Sunday, we face our sternest test of the season, away to current leaders Chelsea. We will need both to be on their game, as a seven point deficit at this stage would not be disastrous, but it would not be ideal. That, alongside our shaky defence minus a colossal Serbian, has resulted in a ‘we’ll score more than you’ policy, something we probably cannot get away with at Stamford Bridge. It is a great talking point in the pub, the topic about what our greatest ever strike-force was. Cole/Yorke, Best/Law with Charlton in behind, Rooney and Van Nistelrooy. What cannot be doubted is that the Rooney and Van Persie partnership has the potential and quality to eclipse the lot. An over-priced, injury-prone gamble they said? Van Persie has already proved it’s money well-spent. Follow Paul on Twitter @RowlesPaul

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