We can establish the kind of person Robin van Persie is by analysing and comparing his most recent outburst against his club or teammates with what has happened in the past. There’s previous and there’s symmetry. It’s now no longer bitter Arsenal fans who are rifling criticism at the Manchester United striker.
Were van Persie’s comments about his teammates after the loss at Olympiakos taken out of context? Is there a frustrated team player in there who is struggling to gel in a new setup created by a new manager? That’s the easy conclusion to hold if he hadn’t done this sort of thing before.
The story away from van Persie individually is that David Moyes has lost the dressing room. Based on the way the team have been playing, it’s difficult to argue that point.
But van Persie has a method of getting what he wants from a football club, first getting his much-desired exit from Arsenal to a club closer to title honours, and now creating tension and raising questions as to his position at Manchester United. An exit during the summer is very much a talking point.
For footballing reasons (heh) there is a case to be made that Manchester United should move on the Dutchman anyway. He’s a better player than Wayne Rooney, unquestionably, but those two simply aren’t working as an attacking one-two punch. Seeing as the club committed to one via a ludicrously-sized new contract, it leaves van Persie as the odd one out and the easier individual to usher out the door.
You can’t help but think that talk of a new contract or wanting to see out his career at Old Trafford is an act to take away from the reality of the situation. Van Persie may be scoring – though not to the same effect as his previous two campaigns – but his interest in being at United looks to be up.
For the club, it’s not the end of the world. They’re capable of reinvesting and replacing; regardless of on-pitch difficulties this season, this isn’t a club who will struggle to attract very good players.
For van Persie, however, other clubs around Europe may be asking if the reward, which may or may not come, is worth the risk. This isn’t a player who is approaching his prime with plenty of time left at the top of the game; depending on fitness, he may only have a couple of seasons left at the very top of European competition.
And it’s hard not to believe clubs or long-standing managers won’t be concerned about his attitude and behaviour. There’s been a lot of criticism for Rooney and for the club handing him such a sizeable new contract, but Rooney doesn’t need much motivating to go out and perform. The same can’t be said for van Persie, who allegedly kept himself away from first-team action this season, prolonging his stay on the treatment table, because he wasn’t happy with life under Moyes.
He has a record now of kicking up a fuss. He won’t play for the current manager, if news on his lack of interest to return from injury is to be believed, and his teammates certainly won’t have appreciated his comments post-Olympiakos if their interpretation of it was the same as everyone else’s. And this is completely discounting his horrendous injury record at Arsenal.
It’s telling that very, very few came in for van Persie when he publically confessed to his desire to leave Arsenal. Perhaps he was thinking Real Madrid and Barcelona. Maybe even Bayern Munich or PSG. Instead, the only serious interest outside of England came from Juventus, who failed to meet Arsenal’s asking price. And this is at a time when he was arguably Europe’s best out-and-out striker, firmly in his peak years.
It never made much sense for United to retain Rooney and van Persie now that Juan Mata has joined. It will make even less sense if Adnan Januzaj is to improve even further and perform as a regular in the No.10 role at the club, and they go on to spend heavily on attacking players in the summer.
There is sure to be another striker merry-go-round this summer, yet how many clubs capable of spending will be interested in van Persie, 31 in August, who can’t be relied upon to get his head down when the going gets tough?
His Champions League comments following the loss in Greece smacked of apportioning blame elsewhere; at Arsenal, it was the club who couldn’t match his ambitions, despite Arsene Wenger regularly being without van Persie for prolonged spells throughout his time in north London.
For a player is perceivably can only perform to a world-class standard when happy, van Persie is doing a lot of damage to a brand which needs to extract as much from these final few years as it can.