Robin van Persie’s admission that Wayne Rooney brings the best out of him shouldn’t really be a surprise. The pair are Manchester United’s best players by some distance, and any of United’s good fortune this season, while both are fit, will centre around the two forwards.
It isn’t really news that the best players want to have others of a similar calibre around them, it’s largely the reason van Persie left Arsenal. We can perhaps also read something into the Dutchman’s praise of Rooney – citing both know they play better when they’re playing in a partnership together – with the former perhaps placing the thought in the England international’s mind to prolong his stay at Old Trafford amid rumours of a summer switch to Chelsea.
It’s the perfect tandem for United, or any team for that matter. Two forwards who are equally comfortable at centre-forward and in the No.10 role. United have clearly lacked creativity this season, even with Adnan Januzaj’s performances. But with just one of either Rooney or van Persie available, United’s productivity is quite clearly elevated.
But it’s not to say Rooney is the only player who is able to bring the best out of van Persie. The Dutchman played much of his career with Cesc Fabregas at Arsenal, one of the best creative midfielders the Premier League has had in the past decade. Even after Fabregas’ departure back to Barcelona, Alex Song formed a good partnership with van Persie. Though it wasn’t anything comparable to that had between van Persie and either Fabregas or Rooney, Song still set up the Dutchman for some of his best goals in English football. Moreover, though it is often overlooked, the partnership formed between van Persie and Theo Walcott in the recent past proved to be particularly productive for Arsenal.
Van Persie’s words speak of the positive relationship between himself and another good player. It is also something Manchester United as a whole should be aware of. Good players need top quality around them. If Rooney is to leave United in the near future, how far can van Persie alone take the club? With the Dutchman already 30, United need to be thinking about building for the long term, but importantly with quality that can come in and work to good effect with the forward.
One of the great images of last season was van Persie’s volley against Aston Villa to secure United the Premier League title. The assist came from Rooney, a cross field ball that was perfectly caught by van Persie on the receiving end. There aren’t too many players who could combine for such a goal. While van Persie speaks of his productive partnership with Rooney, it should also be seen as a message to the club.