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With Rooney and Van Persie getting off to good starts this season, Brendon Netto discusses why the pair could make all the difference for Manchester United.

 Brendon Netto
 COMMENT | England
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In his very first press conference as Manchester United’s manager, David Moyes declared that Wayne Rooney was simply not for sale. There were waves of interest from Chelsea including official bids to fend off but United won that particular tug of war and what a crucial victory it’s proving to be. The English international has looked fitter, sharper and back to his best this season which bodes well for United considering that his partnership with Robin van Persie up front is just as lethal as it promised to be.

When Sir Alex Ferguson signed the former Arsenal captain last summer, the prospect of him joining forces with Rooney was mouthwatering for United fans and frightening for those of the opposition’s. Unfortunately, the Englishman’s injury woes and poor form saw him endure a season in which he was in and out of the first team and the deadly combination wasn’t on display often enough. However, they still produced an exceptional return when they did start games together.

Rooney back to his best

In fact, the two strikers have started together in only 27 games so far but the partnership has still yielded an impressive tally of 33 goals. If United manage to keep their two most gifted forwards fit and firing, that goal scoring ratio could even be bettered considering Rooney’s return to form. As long as they’re on the pitch, the team have a dependable source of goals, almost a guarantee if you will, regardless of the below-par performances of their wingers.


“The hope is we get a partnership where folk are saying, “My goodness, we are having to play against Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney”. Everybody is looking to see if those two can score lots of goals.”

- David Moyes

None of United’s wingers have impressed of late with Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia lacking the kind of ingenuity and dynamism that should be synonymous with wide-men plying their trade at Old Trafford. Meanwhile, Nani’s inconsistency and poor decision making has added to the team’s woes down the flanks.

There may be hope for the future with the likes of Wilfried Zaha, Adnan Januzaj and Jesse Lingard knocking on the door in a bid to cement a place in the first team. At the moment though, two of the most prolific strikers in England are having to fend for themselves. Fortunately, they are more than capable of doing just that.

That’s probably the best aspect of this particular strike partnership. Neither Rooney nor Van Persie are classic poachers. Sure, they have the ability to sniff out a tap-in but they don’t feed on that type of goal exclusively. In truth, they create chances for themselves as well as for each other and of late, they’ve had to.

The duo has had to create goals for themselves at times

Last season, Van Persie finished with 30 goals while Rooney managed 16. Javier Hernandez with 18 goals in the campaign was the only other player to make a significant contribution in that department. However, the two strikers had to lead the way when it came to creating chances as well.

The Dutchman created 69 chances, more than any other United player in the Premier League last season while his strike-partner was second with 49 chances created despite enduring spells on the sidelines and being played out of position at times. The mechanical play of Antonio Valencia yielded 41 chances over the course of the last league campaign.

 

Player Games Goals Assists Chances Created
Wayne Rooney 27 12 10 49
Van Persie 38 26 8 69

Rooney and Van Persie stats in 2012-13 Premier League

 

"The duo has already been directly involved in 11 of the 12 goals United have scored in all competitions so far this season."

The strikers led the assists chart as well with Rooney notching up 10 in the league while Van Persie recorded 8. Valencia could only pitch in with 5, the same as left-back Patrice Evra. The duo has already been directly involved in 11 of the 12 goals United have scored in all competitions so far this season.

The two working in tandem has been a treat to watch at times. The long-ball over the top of the defense from Rooney to Van Persie is becoming a common occurrence. It figured in games like the Champions League clash with CFR Cluj and famously in the 3-0 victory against Aston Villa. In the 2-0 win over Crystal Palace this season, a similar effort was crashed onto the crossbar via Van Persie’s right boot.

There have been several other instances of the sublime link-up play between Rooney and Van Persie. The understanding between the two is always improving and given that this partnership looks like it will prominently feature this season on a regular basis, the goals won’t be drying up anytime soon.


“If they [Rooney and Van Persie] get 60-70 goals between them then United are going to win trophies.”

- Roy Keane

Of course, two world-class forwards can’t guarantee success over the course of a season on their own, even if injuries and suspensions don’t interfere excessively. Players around them will have to contribute but at least United have rid themselves of the gaping hole in midfield they had to contend with last season.

Marouane Fellaini’s arrival has seemingly served to consolidate the core of the side and has taken a lot of the pressure away from Michael Carrick even at this early stage. Meanwhile, more games for Shinji Kagawa could see him linking-up with the front pairing to good effect more often as a few glimpses during the win over Bayer Leverkusen may have suggested.

Kagawa's potential link-up with the front two offers a new dimension

When Sir Alex snapped up Van Persie last summer, he may have envisioned him forging an irresistible partnership with Rooney and at the moment it looks as if that may well be the case. Sterner tests lie ahead for United under Moyes but there isn’t any challenge they wouldn’t face head first with Rooney and Van Persie leading them into battle.

Will the Rooney-Van Persie partnership be even better for United this season? Send in your thoughts in the comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.

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