One way or another David Moyes’s disastrous first season in charge of Manchester United will have casualties. At any other top club in Europe, one of those would already have been the manager. It may yet be this summer. But if the message emanating from those in power at Old Trafford, which continue to insist that Moyes is the man for the long term, proves true then several high-profile players will have to be sacrificed.
While Moyes has claimed otherwise, the performances on the pitch from a team who won the Premier League by 11 points last season strongly intimate that there are several players less than enthused by the man appointed as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor. Nemanja Vidic has already decided to jump ship, while further club stalwarts in Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, and Ryan Giggs are expected to follow suit. All may have left anyway, but there is widespread belief that their personal relationships with Moyes have played a part.
And there could yet be an unexpected departure for a player whose relationship with Moyes has been discussed more than any. Robin van Persie was lured to Manchester United less than two years ago by the opportunity to lift trophies and work with the legendary Ferguson. A year later Ferguson has gone, the Premier League title is further away than it was during his barren years at Arsenal and he won’t even be in the Champions League next season. Set to turn 31 in the summer, Van Persie will surely have little stomach for the long rebuilding process it will take Moyes, even in the best case scenario, to get United back to the top of the European game.
There may be more factors playing on his mind as he considers his future this summer. The first reports that Van Persie was less than enamored by Moyes came early in the Scot’s reign when the striker was thought to be unhappy with his manger’s focus on fitness work. The heavy workload Moyes prescribes for his players in pre-season has been known for some time and has been cited as a reason for Everton’s often slow starts to seasons during his reign.
It is difficult to know the specifics from the outside, but certainly Moyes’ methods don’t appear to have done Van Persie any good. After two almost injury-free years following a career blighted by regular fitness problems, Van Persie has been plagued by niggling issues as well as having three lengthy spells out of the side. The second came about after playing the full 90 minutes in his first appearance following a month out. Renowned Dutch coach Raymond Verheijen, who has worked at three World Cups, has been a frequent and vociferous critic of Moyes’s fitness training and predicted Van Persie’s injuries having witnessed the way he was trained last summer. While Verheijen often appears to take a little too much pleasure in slating Moyes as a “dinosaur,” he is a man whose expertise cannot be questioned.
While it would be understandable were Van Persie to see his future elsewhere, Manchester United might also be of the same mind. The signing of Wayne Rooney to a huge contract demonstrated that, unlike under Ferguson, he was now the main man. Coupled with the club-record transfer fee paid for Juan Mata, it is difficult to see how Van Persie fits into the United side. Whether or not Moyes has been planning without Van Persie remains to be seen, but he has not shown any indication of being able to get the best out of the trio in the same team. Indeed, United’s best performances this season have come when Moyes has almost been compelled by circumstance to have Mata and/or Shinji Kagawa behind Rooney.
If they can get a decent price then it is conceivable that Manchester United will be interested in doing a deal. However, that is likely to be dependent on Van Persie being sold outside of the Premier League. The saga with Rooney and Chelsea last summer showed just how reluctant United were to sell a player, who might still have plenty more left in the tank, to a rival.
That would appear to rule out the club who have been most keenly linked to Van Persie, Arsenal. Reports in February had even suggested that Arsene Wenger had met with Van Persie’s agent, with both parties keen to see the player back at the Emirates Stadium. Realistic options outside the Premier League look few and far between. Juventus were very much intent on signing Van Persie before he went to Old Trafford, although now with Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente leading the line impressively, that interest is unlikely to be reciprocated. Yet the fact remains that if Moyes is to be given more time at the helm then it may be better for all concerned that a solution is found where Van Persie’s future lies elsewhere.