“Trust me, we will back. Trust me, save the video!” Robin van Persie, May 2014
Back when Robin van Persie’s eyes lit up with a beaming smile across his face at the end of what was a terrible season for Manchester United, did he already know Louis van Gaal was going to be appointed manager? Maybe, and who could blame him for smiling if he did.
Van Persie’s performances at the World Cup for Holland showed a man reinvigorated under the Dutchman’s command, he was flying (literally). So, fans were understandably excited to see him play under Van Gaal in a United shirt.
As it happens, Van Persie has been more of a passenger than a pilot this season, creeping through the season at a canter without any real power or lift. Having only missed one game so far, Van Persie simply hasn’t done enough.
Yet, Van Gaal has pandered to him. When his form was down in the dumps, Van Gaal stuck by him and at points he was vindicated. His wonderful strike against Hull was a perfect example of that but for all the purple patches and minor moments, Van Persie has failed to take off.
On more than one occasion this season, Van Gaal has stuck with Van Persie instead of giving Radamel Falcao an opportunity and United have suffered because of it, and it’s about more than just goals.
Falcao’s movement is second to none whereas at times Van Persie is more of a statue than a striker and it blunts United in attack. With Angel di Maria and Ander Herrera in the side, United need to be always active and on the move to create spaces for them, something which Falcao does far better than Van Persie at the moment.
Why has Van Gaal persisted? Loyalty and trust are two things which Van Persie has over Falcao. Van Gaal has seen first hand what Van Persie can do on form but is yet to see that from Falcao and he has hedged his bets that it is Van Persie who will deliver the goals which, more often than not, he hasn’t.
Criticism comes in waves. Purple patches and great performances can gloss over wider issues and that’s what Van Persie has done this season. If Falcao is to really dig his heels in and show what he’s got, Van Gaal has to look past his loyalty to Van Persie and experiment. With United’s current form, now is the time to do so.