Sir Alex Ferguson’s interest in Robin Van Persie has been officially revealed.
Their search for a striker is hardly surprising; Man Utd are in desperate need of attacking threat, with the imminent departure of Dimitar Berbatov leaving only three senior strikers at the club.
But why is he trying to sign Van Persie, a 29 year old priced at £30 million? Is it a good fit, or does it represent a huge gamble for the Man Utd manager?
Ferguson traditionally fields 2 centre forwards, combining a deeper second striker with a natural goalscorer. It is, in fact, one of the few areas of his tactical style that has remained relatively consistent over the past 25 years. A link-up player occupying a deeper role feeds a more traditional centre-forward: exemplified perfectly in the classic Yorke-Cole combination.
The latest incarnation of this philosophy is the irreplaceable Rooney alongside Danny Welbeck or Javier Hernandez. Although Hernandez represents a Michael Owen-esque centre-forward that could compliment Rooney, his style is arguably limited in its usefulness in the modern game. Premiership football is increasingly reliant on strength and adaptability, with players expected to fulfil a variety of roles and contribute to many phases of play.
Needless to say Hernandez is a great player, but his build-up play is not particularly dynamic, explaining his manager’s tendency to field the more versatile Danny Welbeck ahead of him, a player with greater passing ability than the Mexican striker. The dilemma here is that Welbeck is not a particularly menacing goalscoring threat, leading to a scenario in which the second striker (Rooney) is the club top goalscorer.
In RVP, Man Utd will find a forward whose role in Arsenal’s play is crucial. He is more than capable of using his experience and leadership qualities to play as a solitary striker, whilst being, of course, devastatingly prolific. Running on the shoulder of defenders, with Rooney as his provider, there is no reason why RVP would not be a huge success at the club.
Fitting Into The System
United’s reliance on width is both commendable in its efficiency and concerning in its predictability. Aside from Ryan Giggs’ 8 assists, the next non-winger creator in the United side was Rooney, with 4. Valencia, Young and Nani reached a combined 30 assists. Playing primarily with two deeper, passing central midfielders (Carrick and Giggs/Scholes), Ferguson expects his midfield players to dicate the tempo from the centre, whilst displaying litle direct attacking thrust. The main focus of their role is to spread the play to the flanks.
Arsenal similarly rely on the speed of their wingers, utilising a 4-3-3 system that expects overlapping full-backs and incisive counter-attacking. Van Persie scored 52% of his goals last season from in or around the six yard box; evidence that he will have no problem coping with United’s style. Their propensity to hit teams late in the match also favours RVP, as 34% of his goals came in the final 20 minutes of matches. His alertness and determination match that of Man Utd’s.
The biggest stumbling block is the price, particularly given Manchester City are their rivals for his signature. At £30 million, as suggested by the Mail as the price Arsenal are holding out for, it would be an unusually large transfer fee for a player of his age.
Ferguson’s signings are, generally speaking, very astute, and wary of long-term financial implications. Perhaps a 29 year-old, with his instinct and experience, is worth so much money for the wisdom he will be able to pass on to the youngsters Welbeck and Hernandez.
United’s squad could do with a 29 year old in his peak, considering their squad is largely youngsters still learning, or legends in decline. Further still, the medical team at Man Utd seem to be able to do extraordinary things with senior players. It is no coincidence that Giggs and Scholes, still playing in their late thirties, are both at Man Utd.
With United at the cutting edge of physiotherapy and medical care, perhaps 29 is no longer a player about to decline. Ferguson may be seeing another 3-4 years of RVP at his peak which, for £20 million (the price they are likely to be forced to sell for) is not bad business at all.
Signing RVP is a no-brainer: even when factoring in his playing style and the cost, it still makes perfect sense.
Alex is the editor of www.thechalkboard.org.uk, a website that gives in-depth tactical analysis of the weekend’s football action, offering match reports with statistics, diagrams, and intellectual insight into the modern game.Like what the TT have on offer? Sign up for more notifications!