Sometimes, being a one-man team, as long as he’s never injured and in his footballing prime, isn’t such a bad thing. There isn’t much to Manchester United this season beyond Robin van Persie, but it isn’t actually hurting them so far.
The man who’s been around for an age like this with quite a few players, going back to Eric Cantona being in charge of the first stages of the transformation, Alex Ferguson, knows his team is flawed and far from perfect. If it’s their disappointing ability in more than half their Premier League matches this and their flat approach against West Ham in the FA Cup,at the end, only results matter. Ferguson tried to make a change two years ago, but it wasn’t meant to be.
It’s not that United don’t play easy-on-the-eyes football at times. Second half comebacks are usually made for their lightning quick attacks from the wings and heavy pressure through the middle. But against West Ham, until Robin van Persie made his appearance with 20 minutes from time while Ryan Giggs came on to add some magic and Paul Scholes came off without his, United didn’t look too close to finding the equalizer.
It’s just the FA Cup, not the most important competition in the world for teams that mostly think about titles at home and in Europe. The Champions League, the Premier League, it all comes way before the fading thrills and attraction the oldest cup competition has to offer. Still, United never like to lose.
Once again, their dependency on one man was oh so clear. Paul Scholes, a year after returning from his retirement, looks like a player who can’t wait to enter another pension period. Too slow, too weak, and often carless with his passes in areas he shouldn’t be. Ryan Giggs isn’t having a much better season, but he does look much better when he gets chances for 20-15 minutes at the end of matches, where his age doesn’t have time to kick in.
After some disappointing matches from Antonio Valencia lately, Ferguson is moving to the centralized approach, without real wingers. It hurts United when it comes to gameplay, or at least until Shinji Kagawa is 100% again and Wayne Rooney is back from his injury. Until then, when Robin van Persie is off the pitch, it looks too slow and predictable. Only when the Dutchman plays in this formation do wide option being appearing.
Is this the same man that played for the Netherlands during the summer in the Euro, losing in all three matches? The name is the same, looks very similar, although with a tad few more gray hairs here and there, but the ability, motivation and vitality are completely different. Every touch Van Persie makes creates something for himself and for others.
Maybe it’s the Premier League that’s gone south, or maybe he’s hitting the best form of his life for the right team – adding to the lore of never willing to lose, never ever giving up. When you have a player who can actually do something about it, that’s the perfect combination, and the failed tactics and defending from this team can be overlooked in yet another celebration of a well-timed comeback.