First Team News

Is Van Persie 'Robin' Welbeck's Place in the Starting XI?

The frustrated and forlorn figure up front at The Hawthorns on Saturday afternoon did not remotely resemble the Robin van Persie of last season. A well-spoken, vibrant character and a joy to watch on the pitch, he was “undroppable” during Manchester United’s quest for title number 20. Things are different this campaign. A new manager, new coaching staff, new challenges, and a new RVP in some ways. Despite providing the assist for the visitors’ opener on the weekend, his overall performance was erratic. His lack of composure in front of goal in recent weeks, coupled with a few mistimed challenges which incensed the West Brom supporters, saw him replaced by Danny Welbeck. His shake of the head as he trudged off the pitch said it all: not good enough.

A player should be handed his place in the starting XI on merit, not reputation, and, contrary to the famous quote he uttered upon joining the Reds, the Dutchman is not “doing this” at the moment. It happens to the best – and worst – footballers and, as the old adage goes: “Form is temporary, class is permanent.” Technically brilliant, and unquestionably United’s star performer on his day, his movement, first touch and finishing are often wonderful to watch. Notwithstanding this, he has had very few of “his days” this season and, following his remarks after the defeat to Olympiacos at the end of February, it is clear that all is not well in the world of Robin van Persie.


Speaking to the press in Holland, the striker commented that his team mates are “sometimes occupying the spaces I want to play in.” He questioned the tactics employed by the manager, although did conclude, “It’s easy to point the finger at someone, but I’m not like that.” Van Persie does have a point. In other instances, however, he has all too often been isolated up front, crying out for service. This problem is exacerbated whenever Ferdinand and Vidic play together. Having both lost a yard of pace, the back line has to sit deeper, creating a chasm between midfield and the forwards and, as a consequence, link-up play is very limited. This results in the ball being hoofed up the pitch and, as talented as RVP is, not every ball lumped forward will see as exquisite a finish such as that goal against Aston Villa last April.

Of course, it is the manager who picks the matchday 18 and decides on the formation, so much of the responsibility lies with him. Perhaps the biggest issue surrounding the United squad is complacency; too few members of the current team are actually doing enough to win their places in the starting line-up, and too many of them have coasted along this season. There are, however, certain players whose individual performances have exceeded the expectations of even their most fervent detractors.


Welbeck, enjoying a good season up front for his boyhood club, has scored 10 goals in 25 appearances this campaign. Although he continues to split opinion amongst supporters, he was impressive as a substitute against West Brom on the weekend. His introduction immediately lifted the team, he once again linked up well with Rooney and his goal highlighted the improvements to his control and finishing. He might not be as technically gifted as his Dutch team mate, but his experience at international level alongside Rooney is evident in their United partnership. He looked far happier and more confident in his own ability – and that of the team – than van Persie did, and this transmitted to the rest of the players. To put it simply, United played better when Welbeck was introduced to the game on the hour mark on Saturday, and even more so when Shinji Kagawa joined the action 15 minutes later.

This is not to suggest that van Persie does not deserve a place in the starting XI, nor that he should be sold in the summer. An individual of his calibre would be welcome at any football club in the world. On the other hand, no player should be included on the team sheet purely for who they are. With crucial home games on the horizon against Liverpool, Olympiacos and Manchester City, unless van Persie can get his act together and David Moyes can implement a system that plays to his strengths, a change in attack is needed.


Every player in every team has a part to play over the course of a season, whether they are fighting for the title, languishing in mid-table, or swept up in a relegation battle. If certain members of the squad are underperforming, it is as good a time as any to give opportunities to the players who want to prove their worth. With rumours of Moyes’ job being on the line, it is difficult to imagine him straying too far from what he has done all season, but surely he will have been encouraged by the team’s display for the final half an hour on the weekend. The flair of Mata and Kagawa/Januzaj, combined with the work rate of Rooney and the efficiency of Carrick and Fellaini in the middle of the park could leave the starring role up front open for Welbeck. The Mancunian would relish the chance to lead the line, and putting some pressure on van Persie to win his place back could benefit the team in the long run.

It is easy for a footballer to “love” his club when things are going well, the team is winning and the fans are happy. However, it is the players who, when faced with a “crisis”, refuse to shy away from responsibility, would rather get on with the job than grumble and point fingers, and remain willing to take on anyone, that deserve the honour of pulling on a United shirt and stepping over that white line at Old Trafford.

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By Chelsi

I like Michael Carrick. If you like Michael Carrick too, let's be friends. And if you don't, well, just lie and say you do.

17 replies on “Is Van Persie 'Robin' Welbeck's Place in the Starting XI?”

I agree with the article, RVP is good but for now he is not helping the team. Fine he doesnt get enough service but what does he do with the few chances he gets? He squanders them. Remember the Arsenal game, the Olympiacos game? Plus he talks badly en dat will kill the morale of the team. On sunday we shud start Rooney as a lone striker or if we play two strikers then we shud start Rooney and Welbeck. #myopinion

Drop Rooney, Drop Welbeck


Januza,Mata, Kagawa


One of Moyeses big mistakes is bottling it and playing Rooney up front, he’s ruined the shape and that’s the difference between this season and last.The very same team won the premiership last season without Rooney.

It’s funny, despite Rooney being such a key player for United, the team’s season seems to “suffer” whenever he has a good individual campaign (see: 2009/10). I’m not sure why this is, and I’m not his greatest fan, I must admit. I am quite cynical and do still wonder whether his sterling performances earlier on in the season were efforts to either a) put himself in the shop window, or b) land himself a whopping new contract.

Welbeck did really well when he came on, hope he maybe gets a start next game along with most of the 11 at the weekend. I think the media however are having a feast day with RvP, he should take G Neville’s advice and let football do the talking.

Good read, keep it up!

I was thrilled to read the excerpts from RVP’s interview yesterday, and I’m glad it appears he’s looking to stay and extend his contract. I couldn’t agree more with you, though; he needs to do his talking out on the pitch. If he starts on Sunday then we’re really going to need his head to be in the game. Lose at home to Liverpool and the atmosphere could turn toxic rather quickly!

Thank you for your kind words, by the way.

Moyes’ unsatisfactory tenure as manager of Manchester United has resulted in a group of talented players under-performing both individually and collectively. Obviously, players have to take responsibility for their own personal efforts but the approach Moyes has made to team selection, roles, tactics and motivation has resulted in a lot of frustration about the place.

RVP in particular appears to be suffering more than most. He is working hard, trying to succeed but the harder he tries the worse things have become. This was highlighted by his ‘whole-hearted’ tackling which probably should have produced a second yellow card against WBA.

Whether he wants to stay, or is even wanted by Moyes, next season remains to be seen. However, at present, a goal or two against the Scousers wiill do him (and us) a world of good. Really, he is just an out of touch, but very classy, striker who could come good at any moment.

Welbeck took his goal well against WBA and deserves more game time, but he shouldn’t start ahead of Van Persie in the upcoming big games..

i think its good for Man United if RVP Starts.bcz he was a golden boot winner last Session. i think he will score in big matches

Very good article, couldn’t agree more, I’ve been thinking the same since the West Brom game, I want to see our attack line up versus Liverpool

Fellaini Carrick
Mata Roo Januzaj

And with the 3 interchanging constantly and Mata moving inside it gives Rafael the freedom of the entire right side, that’s good enough to beat any team imo

barca team vs city:
alves pique mascherano alba
xavi busquets iniesta
messi neymar

busquets the only real major holding midfielder, against a pretty physical city team

utd team i believe is our strongest squad
de gea
rafael smalling jones evra
mata kagawa janujaz
rooney rvp

for those that doubt my squad could be effective… seriously???

jones & smalling simply need more time as centre backs!

rooney needs to return to the position he has always been most succesful at… striker!

mata kagawa janujaz can be our xavi iniesta fabregas!

fellaini our busquets.

THIS is why i know carrick needs to be booted out!

stop focussing on how we will play with9out the ball… play with the aim of always having the ball!

field 2 defensive midfielders, then expect to have to defend!

back to the point of the article, RVP needs time out. welbeck & hernandez deserve more match time, and RVP needs to know he has to fight for his spot!

the whole system is disastrous. getting caught up with who should play up front is honestly the least of united’s issues. moyes has no idea how to utilise his 3 natural no. 10 players, meaning he plays Rooney because he feels like he has to, when he could very well play Rooney as outright striker. midfield/defence not good enough. regardless of welbeck/van persie playing up front, we are shafted in almost every other area.

Welbeck should start against the scousers, RVPs a better player but his attitudes been shocking all year, Danny deserves his chance, hope Moyes has the bottle to leave out a top class player whos heart seems to not be in it this year!

With news of RVP’s “I want to stay” interview hitting the internet yesterday, I’m now fairly certain he’ll get the nod over Welbeck. Sometimes you do have to be bold and take risks, but I find it difficult to envisage Moyes doing this from now until the end of March, at least. I like both players an awful lot, perhaps we’ll see the pair of them on Sunday at one point or another.

The question is not RVP or Welbeck. The question is what goes wrong this year, while having the same players as last year? The difference is too big for searching the answers in (some) players acting less. I agree the system could be better . Further it’s all about confidence, even for top players like RVP and these are the ones that can make the difference. They maybe invisible sometimes but nevertheless they can help winning the match. Every team needs players like that and they deserve more credits than others in the interest of the team. Just to illustrate; This season Barcelona lost of Ajax ( 2-0) in the champions leque,because they had no Messi
( injured) to make the difference. And even without Messi Barcelona should be better. About Messi, he is not the Messi of last year but still he plays. I see no reason why Man. united should act differently. O.K. RVP is not a Messi, but Man United is not Barcelona, especially not this year.

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