Now that things ain’t working out so good over at Old Trafford, the grass is not the cash is looking a little greener back here at Ashburton Grove, and van Persie is green with envy. 15 points behind us, five points off the pace for a Europa League spot, and seven off the pace for a Champions League spot. It’s been a season full of firsts at Old Trafford, what with Everton, Stoke, and Newcastle winning there for the first time in decades (40 years for Newcastle) and Swansea’s first-ever victory there. Van Persie’s injuries have played a role, to be sure, and there are two reasons to worry about that.
One, of course, is that he’s actually injured. Long prone to injuries, this Glass Joe is now 30 (31 in August) and is looking increasingly brittle. He’s missed 17 matches across all competitions so far this season and looks set to make his fewest number of appearances since 2010. Two, just as worrying if not more so, is his apparent mentality. Moyes himself admits as much, saying “I have taken Robin’s advice where he feels he is at. I ask him if he is ready to play and how long does he feel he is able to play.” Now, of course, this is what managers and players do. They check in to assess fitness. However, in this case, the relationship smells of one in which the player has deigned not to play. He went missing for ten matches with a pulled hamstring, a stretch that saw Man U get dumped from the FA Cup and league cup while falling off the pace in the Prem. Whether the injury was that severe or whether van Persie simply didn’t feel like playing, the conclusion we should draw is the same: we can’t rely on him if the going gets tough.
Then again, we’ve known that for a while. When he left, the man showed his true colors, and that’s that.
In the past two seasons, we could sometimes be guilty of looking back and wondering, wistfully, “what if…” What if Cesc had stayed? What if van Persie had stayed? We’ve spent a good deal of time looking back and wishing things might have turned out differently, and a part of this “would we welcome van Persie back?” derives from the form he showed for one season. The nostalgia is understandable, but don’t forget the present, one in which we’re top of the table and are one of three clubs contending for the championship. We’re no longer scrabbling to climb up to or hold onto fourth place. We’re in a position that allows us to fight for the full meal and let the crumbs fall from the table to Man U or Tottenham or Newcastle.
Let’s enjoy that for what it’s worth, and stop worrying about what was and what might have been. See ya, Robbo. Thanks for the memories and so on.