All season long, the talk in the press has been about Louis Van Gaal’s capture of Colombian hitman Radamel Falcao and his future at the club.
Falcao is a world class striker, undoubtedly. A scorer of over 200 career goals and the all-time top goalscorer in the UEFA Europa League, he’s proven his worth all over Europe. He joined United on deadline day on a season-long loan, with the general perception being that a deal had been agreed ahead of time in order to get around any potential FFP implications.
Now though, that seems to have been forgotten about. El Tigre has failed to live up to the hype for the Red Devils, netting just three times so far this season and being plagued by injuries.
He’s a fan favourite and without doubt still one of the top strikers in the league, but something just hasn’t clicked yet.
Robin van Persie however seems to be going the other way. The Dutch striker joined as a fan favourite and hit the ground running, slamming 30 goals in his debut season en route to winning the 20th league title.
In his second season, his injuries came back to haunt him and while he still scored 18 goals he looked disinterested. This year, he’s struggled badly.
Injuries haven’t been a problem for RvP this year but his performances have been a shambles. He’s looked disinterested again but on top of that, he looks two steps behind everyone. After the summer’s World Cup, most presumed that it would take him a little while longer to get going. Now at the end of January, we are still waiting.
van Persie has eight goals this season however and with the ex-Arsenal man being Louis Van Gaal’s golden boy, his first-team place looks assured.
He admitted this week however that his long-term future is in doubt, with his current deal expiring next summer and no talks over a new one on the table yet. At 31, it’s just as likely he leaves the club this summer as Falcao does.
Louis Van Gaal has tried to play both men together in a superstar strike force on multiple occasions. It just doesn’t seem to work. Both men are more comfortable playing on the shoulder of the last defender and instinctively finishing any chances that fall their way. When both play together, one is forced to drop slightly deeper to help link attack and midfield. This is a job that Wayne Rooney excels at.
With players coming back to fitness now all over the pitch, Wayne Rooney won’t be required to fill in at central midfield anymore. That means he will move further up-field and combat Juan Mata for the No.10 position. He shouldn’t though.
Rooney is our joint top-goalscorer along with van Persie on eight goals this season and has shown time and time again that he delivers when playing at the top end of the pitch. When Juan Mata is the No.10, Rooney should be the first choice striker partnered by Falcao or van Persie.
Van Gaal’s love for his fellow Dutchman means it’s more likely we’ll show Falcao the door in the summer. But he’s been the better of the two this season.
Falcao’s overall performance has shown so much more for fans than van Persie. Of Falcao’s three goals this season, he’s got the winner against Everton and the equalising goals against Stoke and Aston Villa. His desire has been there and but for some pure bad luck, he’d have at least double his tally for goals this season. There have been signs of improvement from the Colombian as the season has progressed, only for Louis Van Gaal to then drop him or he get injured.
With next season so key for the club, a decision will have to be made. Not whether or not to keep Falcao on a permanent deal, or to re-sign Robin van Persie to a new deal but to choose which one will lead the line and which will head towards the Old Trafford exit.