Luckily for Robin van Persie, Manchester United are simply gliding towards the Premier League title, thanks to his scoring touch in the first half of the season, but there is no denying that if it wasn’t for their huge lead at the top of the table, we would be hearing a lot more questions and doubts about his ability, going through the worst scoring drought anyone of his caliber has gone through this season and in recent memory.
With 19 Premier League goals, Van Persie still leads the team’s scoring charts, but he has fallen off the race for top scorer in the league, now three goals behind Luis Suarez. Manchester United keep winning without him – he’s playing, but he is not really there. Not just his scoring, but Van Persie seems less and less involved with everything that’s happening on the pitch. As United shift from a team that was conceding in buckets and needed attacking inspiration each and every match to get them out of deep holes to a barricaded wall that hardly concedes anymore, Van Persie’s role as the hero of the day has diminished, almost disappeared.
In numbers – He hasn’t scored in 7 consecutive matches; three in the Premier League, two in the FA Cup, two in the Champions League, with two of them being substitute appearances for him. He has only one league goal in his last six Premier League matches, with the scoring drought going back to January 20th, after he scored the opening goal against Tottenham in the 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane. Since then, it’s been a different Van Persie, stepping away from the spotlight while Wayne Rooney, despite all of the problems he’s having with Alex Ferguson this season, has been much more consistent.
Looking back at last season, in which Van Persie scored 30 goals for Arsenal, something like this never happened. His longest scoring drought was four matches and although the second half of the season wasn’t as prolific for him like the first, he didn’t truly disappear into the background while the team went on without him. It was also Arsenal, much more depending on his scoring. United have won their defense back, which means that there’s no real need for the gung-ho mentality of the first half of the season, showing up in second halves of matches.
These things happen to strikers, and there’s not that much pressure on Van Persie to come back and start blazing right away. If he needs time, give him time. It’s simply weird that not only has his scoring been so off the mark; he’s taking less shots at goal and getting less touches, most of them far less accurate and productive than before. Alex Ferguson still blames the referee for losing in the Champions League, but people can forget just how many chances Van Persie missed that earlier this season would have gone in, even if he was wearing blindfolds.