What’s going on with this Man United striker?

A stunning hat trick to send Manchester United through  in the Champions League doesn’t disguise the fact that there is something clearly not right with Robin van Persie this season.

The Dutchman, who was lauded as the key to United’s title triumph last season, has often been absent or cut a forlorn figure under new manager David Moyes.

With the club currently languishing in 7th place in the Premier League right now, van Persie is obviously not the only player at Old Trafford failing to replicate last season’s form.

Having featured in every league fixture during Sir Alex Ferguson’s final year in charge, the Dutchman has only appeared eighteen times in the same competition for Moyes in this campaign.

Although he managed to stay fit for the previous two seasons, injuries that had plagued the entirety of van Persie’s career seem to have returned to haunt him once more.

Even so, some will point to the fact that he has still notched 11 league goals in this injury-hit campaign as evidence that there is nothing wrong with the striker.

11 from 18 is a record that all strikers would be proud of.

But to suggest that all is well for the Dutchman at Old Trafford would be to ignore the player’s body language and performances at times this season.

Talks of a rift with David Moyes remain unfounded. Accusations mounted that van Persie’s numerous absences from the side were due to disputes rather than any injury. If all newspaper reports were to be believed, nearly every player at the club has had some issue with the manager this season.

But despite this, van Persie’s criticism of his team-mates “sometimes occupying the spaces I want to play in” after the first leg defeat in Greece revealed a very telling disillusionment at the club.

The Dutchman added in the same interview that his fellow United players are “often playing in my zones”, which forces him to alter his natural game.

How often does a player ever come out publicly and express concerns with the team’s tactics? Although he was very clear in not pointing the finger at Moyes, these remarkable comments reveal the striker’s discontent with his side’s setup this season.

In the discussion after the second leg triumph, the Sky Sports panel noted how Moyes’ alterations had managed to bring the best out of van Persie.

Gary Neville pointed out that the inclusion of Ryan Giggs’ forward passing from midfield and Danny Welbeck’s industry out wide served to create the space and opportunities that the Dutchman thrives upon.

For a player that was often decisive in fixtures last season, van Persie has been nothing more than a passenger in too many of the big games this year.

Heat maps and analyses of the Dutchman’s touches in some of these matches reveal just how little impact the striker has had in many of United’s disappointing results this season.

In the recent devastating home loss to Liverpool, the striker was essentially a bystander. Even with Adnan Januzaj, Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney surrounding him, van Persie was unable to exert any influence on the game.

The situation has deteriorated to the point where journalists such as Neil Custis of The Sun have suggested that the club may actively look to sell the player in the summer. Talk of a return to Arsenal or a move to Juventus has been mooted.

Only last week, van Persie publicly outlined his intention to stay at the club. But the January arrival of Mata and Rooney’s recent contract extension perhaps suggests that United are planning for a future without the Dutchman.

The levels of finance involved in both of these deals implies that the pair are considered integral to Moyes’ plans.

Mata is clearly not suited to the wide role which the manager has at times asked him to occupy which begs the question, can these three players actually play in the same side?

Injury plagued and thirty one in the summer, van Persie may be the one ousted either from the starting XI or even the club altogether.

Provided that the knock he suffered in the closing stages against Olympiakos doesn’t prove to be serious, maybe the hat trick will rejuvenate the striker and the club’s fortunes.

But there have been many false dawns at United this season. And something is still clearly not right with Robin van Persie.