If you’re an individual whose feelings for football are about as abundant as Liverpool’s league titles since 1989, chances are that you’ll find March a rather pleasant month. Longer days, warm(ish) weather and Easter chocolate are all good reasons to be cheerful as the spring slowly, yet ever so steadily, replaces the winter with the same regularity with whom ‘Arry oversees clubs plunging into financial meltdown.
Personally, I have never liked March. All this talking of the title being within touching distance (I refuse to use words that would describe the title as if it had already been added to our trophy cabinet) and the insistency of pairing the words “done” and “dusted” is cringeworthy, considering we still have nine (NINE!) league games to go through.
Yes, 15 points are a relatively safe buffer but considering that we’re a one man team, we’re going to be exposed, given that our catalyst has recorded the grand total of one goal since 20 January and that without his presence, the worst Manchester United squad ever will undoubtedly come short in their quest for fourth place.
Sarcasm aside, Robin Van Persie’s season will still remain a stellar one even though his goalscoring vein has dried up in recent times. Nobody could expect the Dutchman to sustain such an incredible momentum over the nine, grueling months of a Premier League campaign, particularly when he had done exactly the same 12 months ago, dragging Arsene and Arsenal to a fourth place finish.
As United stuttered during the early months of the season (hardly a surprising statistic anyway, considering that we have only seldom hit the ground running) media and pundits alike, quickly branded us a “One Man Team”. Much as they had done with Ronaldo in 2007-08, they simply couldn’t accept that one player’s brilliance could be not only seized upon, but also enhanced by a collective effort.
Tabloids even produced statistics which showed United would be lying in mid-table had it not been for Robin Van Persie, candidly ignoring the fact that the Dutchman had indeed been purchased for his goalscoring abilities and to propel United’s title challenge.
Van Persie was undoubtedly unplayable from August to January, notching 19 league goals in the process, but others have contributed too. Wayne Rooney has 12 league goals from a meagre 17 starts, Javier Hernandez 8 despite starting only 6 games and appearing 9 times off the bench while Shinji Kagawa’s first season at Old Trafford has seen him finding the net 5 times in only 11 league starts.
Evans, Evra and Rafael have 10 goals combined, a vital contribution when one considers that United’s rearguard had produced only 3 league goals last season, courtesy of one apiece from Evans, Jones and Smalling.
The notion of one man team is even more ludicrous when one looks at statistics from previous seasons. In 2011-12, Wayne Rooney was United’s top-scorer in the league, netting twice as many league goals as second-best Javier Hernandez, yet United weren’t judged as harshly as they’ve been this season.
Rather than the 2009-10 season, when Rooney’s best goalscoring form at the club saw him netting 26 league goals, with Dimitar Berbatov a distant second with 12, United’s goalscoring record this year is reminiscent of the one that propelled the Reds to a record 19th league title in 2010-11.
Back then, Dimitar Berbatov, Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney all reached double figures, with Nani chipping in with 9, and while Shinji Kagawa might not add to his tally, the 10-goal mark is definitely within Hernandez’s reach and we shouldn’t forget that 17 players have found the net in the league for United this season, compared to the 15 of two seasons ago.
Ironically, what United had been accused of lacking in the early stages of the season has now become a stick to beat them with now that Van Persie has stopped scoring. A one man team to masquerade the paucity of options or a collective effort to disguise the lack of a real star? Some people really are hard to please.
As far as I’m concerned, as long as the goals keep coming from now until May, I won’t care who gets them, even if that means sitting through another nine, mind-numbingly boring 1-0 wins like Saturday’s.
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Tags: Opinion Piece