Robin van Persie had an incredible debut season for Manchester United. It was his signing that essentially won us the Premier League title. It had been decreed that Sir Alex Ferguson would never sign a player over the age of 26; such was the new mantra of Manchester United that the preference was to develop our own world class players like Cristiano Ronaldo, than to just simply buy them in, unlike some noisy neighbours of ours. However, having suffered the anguish of losing the 2011/12 title in the dying embers of the season on mere goal difference (if only we’d conceded JUST 4 against the Dubai contingent at OT), we were not going to make the same mistake again. So we bought the best striker in the league at that time. Genius; and it worked. Van Persie finished the season with 24 goals in the league, and even though we only performed like champions in the second half of last season, we ran away with the trophy by a humungous 11 points.
However, this season has been a culmination in change form top to bottom, and as such we have suffered both on and off the pitch. The summer transfer window was nigh on abysmal, with the panicked last minute buy of a rangy Belgian boffhead, and the only good bit about it really being Anderson being carted out to Fiorentina. We had been crying out for a ball winning midfielder who could break up opposition play and pass the ball forward so we could counter attack for a good 5 years, and true to form, we got linked with a whole variety of names. Fabregas, De Rossi, Strootman, Khedira, Thiago (an attacker I know but still…). All passed under the radar and signed for other clubs, and we ended up spending £4 million over Fellaini’s original release clause, having offered £2.5 million less for the combined sale of him and Leighton Baines. Even with the marquee signing of Juan Mata in the January transfer window, David Moyes so far in his transfer activity at the club hasn’t shone as much as we Reds would have liked.
Equally, performances on the pitch have been no less up to scratch. Losing at home to teams like Newcastle (“a wee small club” don’t forget) and West Brom, added to throwing away 2 points late on against Cardiff and Southampton amongst others, has led to the vitriolic damnation of Moyes, his backroom staff, but most concerning, the ability and attitude of the players. Over this season, United has turned into the laughing stock of all our rivals. How the Champions have fallen from grace…
Going back to RVP, he has failed to eclipse, or even get close to surmounting the form he displayed last year. The confidence in himself appears to have been knocked from within, and his glaring miss against Olympiakos in the first leg of our Champions League clash just about summed up what has been a torrid season for him and the club. There are times when he looks despondent, and with the rumours that have been circulating about his happiness at the club, it appears that he could want out, and also that there are a few suitors who would be interested in taking him away from Old Trafford.
My theory is thus. Manchester United could in theory sell RVP this summer, and yet still be better off. For one, he is in the twilight of his career age wise. At 30, there is the theory that soon he will be over the hill. Granted, in total he has scored 37 goals in 55 league appearances for the club, which is outstanding, but this season he hasn’t looked anywhere near the same player he was just 12 months prior.
Two, he has been injury prone in the past. As you get older, recovery time takes longer, and United cannot really afford at the moment to have a talisman out for long periods. Three, now is the only real time we can make some money on him. We bought him for £24 million, but he effectively won us the 2012/13 title. With his contract up in 2016, and a clause saying he is free to speak to clubs should United not make the Top 4, if we are going to cash in, this summer really is the only chance we have of doing so. We have a great opportunity this summer to break with the old, and bring in the new. We need new young blood at United desperately, and the money from an RVP transfer could come in handy in rejuvenating an ageing squad.
What’s more, you only need look at the West Brom game on Saturday to see that he wouldn’t be missed as much as you think. Most would agree he was very lucky not to have seen red in that match, plus we were stale and lacked energy in our play, RVP being culpable of that especially. Replacing him for ‘Dat Guy’ gave us a performance lift, we attacked with more pace and aggression, and we ran out comfortable winners in the end. Also, with Rooney signing a new bumper deal, United obviously see him as the lynchpin rather than the Dutchman. Imagine an attacking three of Rooney up top with Mata in behind, and Januzaj on the left? That would be mouth watering. Add a winger who can cross a ball from the right, and we have a potentially deadly attack. Next job is to sure up a leaky defence, so a centre back (to replace Rio and Vidic) and left back (Evra is surely leaving too?) are a must, and a proper right back as back up to Rafael would not go amiss either. All we would need then is the aforementioned holding midfielder (of which William Carvalho is getting a lot of mention and attention), and I feel that we would have a team that could at least challenge for the Premier League title, which is where we should be. Take this season as a learning curve. The summer is the time to act, and David Moyes has to get it right for the sake of his United future. The dissident players have to be brought back in line, and the deadwood removed, and only then will our club be truly ‘United’ in getting back to being the Champions we once were.