After the inevitable Manchester United comeback was completed against West Ham United in the FA Cup third round, the equally inevitable, yet consummately farcical assertions of United being a ‘one man club’ surfaced. Robin van Persie’s sublime take and finish from Ryan Giggs’ crossfield pass was the latest example in a long line of last-gasp goals from the Dutchman.
With the level-headed pundit and fan marvelling at the supreme grace of the goal, and – if somewhat ruefully – conceding that Van Persie was an extremely shrewd purchase on behalf of Sir Alex Ferguson, the more hot-tempered armchair warriors took to the internet to smash their keys to the tune of the ‘One Man Team’.
Some of the more fanatically blind Arsenal fans, often keen to absurdly justify Van Persie’s departure for their own means, wasted little time in declaring United overly-dependant on the Dutch hotshot. So often has he come to the Red Devils’ aid this season that the blinkers have come out and he is now being construed in some quarters as the sole saving grace of Old Trafford.
Conversely, scoring goals is the exact reason the Manchester giants paid their North London rivals £20m for his services. If he struggled to find the net he’d be jeered, but find it too often and he’s…also jeered? Some moron trivialised the season so far by suggesting that Man United would be 11th if it wasn’t for Van Persie’s goal scoring exploits. You know, that integral facet to his game, being a striker and all. The club would also be bottom if David De Gea merely sat on his arse in goal and made daisy chains all match. That kind of thinking is merely stoked by jealousy.
While Van Persie admittedly scores a tonne of goals, the club’s position in the league – and subsequent competitions – is down to the collective endeavours of the team. United have amassed 71 goals across all competitions, with a staggering 20 different scorers. Javier Hernandez has eight in the league, Wayne Rooney five – hell, even Patrice Evra has four: does that mean he’s suddenly become ‘Mr. Man United’? Rooney has assisted eight of Van Persie’s goals, showcasing that United are similarly grateful for their Anglo-Dutch attacking partnership.
Against Newcastle recently it was Chicharito who took the starring role in the ‘Late Show Extravaganza’, while United didn’t even need to call on a last-gasp surge to overcome Wigan and West Brom. However, as soon as the Dutchman nets in a dramatic, time-constrained fashion, then United must depend on him – and ONLY him – as their source of goals. If he didn’t score, the the club wouldn’t be eleventh; rather, the Old Trafford faithful would be questioning why the club paid £20m for a glorified traffic cone up front.
True, Manchester United aren’t exactly making it easy for themselves in most games due to their staunch insistence to not defend well (exhibit A: James Collins two goals for West Ham), but this notion that they are overly reliant on Robin van Persie is grounded in little logicality. He plays the central striking role, he also drop deeps to be involved in the play, so he is extremely likely to see a lot of the ball.
That he scores a lot of goals is not only down to his ability to create space for himself and fashion chances from nothing, but is thanks in some extent to the creativity of the players in and around him. If United were such a ‘One Man Team’ from whom would Van Persie have received such a glorious ball from for the equaliser against West Ham?
Jealousy is all that fuels these arguments. As gifted as the Dutchman is at gaining half a yard of space to shoot, in some of the tightest situations too, players like Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia are adept in creating chances for him to finish. That’s the brilliance of Van Persie and his fluid integration into the Manchester United fold: his goals can come from practically anywhere, at any time.
While at Arsenal, especially last season, Van Persie did as he is doing now: scoring goals from all imaginable situations. It just so transpired that the Gunners had a shite-awful team behind him – United don’t.
If Manchester United are ‘reliant’ on Robin van Persie, then the same can be said of all the teams lucky enough to possess a ‘difference maker’: Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid, Lionel Messi at Barcelona, Andrea Pirlo at Juventus. It just so happens the other three aren’t topping the Premier League. Again.