By Jonathan Birchall
Manchester United need Robin van Persie to stay fit if they are to have a chance of picking up silverware this season, according to club legend Denis Irwin.
Van Persie missed Saturday's disappointing 2-2 draw with Cardiff City and is a doubt ahead of United's crucial Champions League clash with Bayer Leverkusen.
The Dutchman has suffered from a number of injuries this term and Irwin, who was speaking at Chevrolet retailer Frosts of Shoreham, believes the forward's fitness alongside that of strike partner Wayne Rooney is crucial to David Moyes' hopes of silverware.
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"If United are going to win championships we need those two to stay fit. There's no doubt that if they stay fit then they’ll score goals for us.
"Rooney has been unbelievable in the first few months of the season. He’s at the buzz of everything; he’s scoring goals, creating goals, he’s working as hard as you’d expect him to do because that’s in the nature of him anyway so that has been a main plus, a major plus for us."
Sunday’s draw with Cardiff City sparked fresh criticism of Moyes, who has endured an underwhelming start to his reign at Old Trafford.
But Irwin believes such setbacks are to be expected as the Scot finds his feet and remains confident his old club will be fighting for major honours come May.
"It was always going to be a challenge taking over from Sir Alex, particularly with the way the fixture list was drawn up over the first two months of the season, playing at home to Chelsea and away to Liverpool and Manchester City in the Premier League," Irwin added.
"It was a tough start but we've recovered really well. We needed to beat Arsenal which we did and we were unfortunate to have an international break soon after that which didn’t help.
"We didn’t play particularly well against Cardiff and even though we were 2-1 up with a minute to go, I think the draw was the fair result.
"All in all Europe has been good, we’re on a decent run and I think you’re going to see plenty of ups and downs this year in the league. I've no doubt at the end of the season that we’ll be there or thereabouts."
United fans have taken heart in the emergence of Adnan Januzaj this season, and Irwin believes the talented youngster has a big future ahead of him.
"Januzaj has made a big stride from the U21s into the first-team," he continued. "He was great in pre-season and I’ve seen a lot of him and seen the progression in him.
"You’re never quite sure how a player is going to react when they get into the first team but he has been great. He has added a new dimension to the team and he’s very comfortable on the ball."
Moyes is looking to strengthen his United team in Irwin’s old favourite position of left-back with Patrice Evra widely expected to leave the club when his contract expires this summer.
Everton star Leighton Baines is top of the Scot’s wishlist, but Irwin has been impressed with the way Evra has handled the speculation surrounding his future.
"Leighton Baines is a great player, David Moyes knows what he is capable of and there were a lot of rumours over the summer about him and Luke Shaw from Southampton but I think Patrice Evra has been fantastic this year, one of our best players and has reacted to it really well," he insisted.
"It’s part and parcel of being a Manchester United player; a young whippersnapper might come in and look to take your place or the club might be linked to somebody in your position but I think he has responded really well and he has been a real plus.”
Denis Irwin was presenting Frosts of Shoreham with a Manchester United Chevrolet Trax – for more information go to www.chevrolet.co.uk