Man United: Would It Be Better To Let Petulant RVP Go In The Summer?
It is always depressing to see the spring buds hit by an unexpected frost. To observe their shrivelled remains on the tree denies us the chance to wonder at the beauty that should have been.
Likewise, when footballing partnerships fail to blossom, it is upsetting for those of us whose mouths once watered at the possibilities such a coming together conjured in our imaginations.
So it is with Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie. When the latter was bought from Arsenal during those heady days of late summer 2012, the thought of the two of them spearheading United's attack presented us with the most tantalising of prospects.
Yet it has never really worked out for, despite United being crowned champions, once again, in their first season together, they offered only glimpses of the bedazzlement we had anticipated.
It could all have been so different. Had Rooney not fallen out so cataclysmically with Sir Alex Ferguson; had the great Scot not decided to retire and anoint David Moyes as his successor; had Rooney not viewed the purchase of the previous season's top goalscorer and stand-out performer as a personal affront, we could be sitting here now, marvelling at the wondrous football the two produced, as United cruised to a twenty-first title.
Alas, Rooney spent last season in a constant battle against, not just Ferguson but also, seemingly, his own inner demons. He was the antithesis of the model professional, while his Dutch counterpart swept all before him, a picture of becalmed footballing happiness.
Against West Brom, on Saturday, the little boy inside Robin Van Persie, so persuasive when urging him to choose the red half of Manchester over the blue, appeared to have morphed into a Damien-like demon, as he flew about the place in a petulant rage, all two-footed tackles and rash challenges, the beatific smile of last year contorted into a scowl.
In the end, it was a relief to see him withdrawn from the action, if only to save him from himself, and it was hard not to be struck by just how drastically the tables have been turned. For we are far more used to seeing Van Persie's Liverpudlian brother-in-arms flying about the place like a Tasmanian devil than we are the Dutchman, whose balletic poise and silky skills so warmed our hearts last term.
The sight of Van Persie bundling Rooney over in the West Brom penalty area shortly before he left the fray, with all the uncouth clumsiness of a drunk rugby fan on a night out in Twickenham, was a perfect microcosm of a relationship now fraught with disappointment.
The fact that many United fans despise Wayne Rooney, despite his remarkable record in their club's colours, and resent his latest bumper-contract, adds spice to this latest development. For they would much rather be witnessing the Dutchman excelling.
Whichever of the two you prefer, it is undeniable that, once Van Persie was replaced by the more energetic and willing Danny Welbeck, United were a far more balanced and dynamic outfit.
Which poses a question that few of us saw coming: would it be better for the club, as a whole, to let Robin Van Persie go in the summer?
The fact is, Rooney is here to stay, as long as Moyes is in his post and, unless Van Persie can rediscover the sparkling form of his first season in a United shirt and stop sulking about having to work under his new manager (both of which, at present, seem unlikely), it may be better for all concerned that he leaves.
It may seem odd to suggest such a thing on the back of Manchester United, the reigning champions of England, beating West Bromwich Albion, a team in the throes of Premier League death.
Nevertheless, United's best performance in a long while took place once Van Persie was safely tucked up on the bench. Perhaps we are reading too much into this. Yet, there is no question that his removal from the action had a galvanising effect on the rest of the team, and particularly Rooney.
Upsetting as it may be, perhaps it is time we all accepted that this is one icy relationship that is destined never to thaw.