Robin van Persie claims he is receiving no help from his Manchester United team-mates, who he believes are forcing him to change his game.
Last season the Dutch international could do little wrong as he fired the Reds to a record-extending 20th league title, but he has cut a figure of frustration this term. With rumours refusing to fade away that he was unhappy that Sir Alex Ferguson retired, it has been suggested that he has struggled to get to grips with David Moyes’ methods.
Injuries have also restricted him to just 18 starts in all appearances, and whilst he can still boast a healthy return of 12 goals, he has often looked well short of his best. The 30-year-old experienced yet more disappointment on Wednesday night, when United suffered a 2-0 UEFA Champions League defeat away to Olympiakos, a game in which he missed a great opportunity to score a vital away goal with just minutes left to play.
After the match, which many are labelling United’s worst performance in Europe for some years, the former Arsenal ace made no secret of his struggle to recapture his best form. And he believes this can be put down to his team-mates, who he claims are often impinging in his territory and therefore giving him less chance to have an impact.
“My fellow players are sometimes occupying the spaces I want to play in,” van Persie told NOS. “And unfortunately, they are often playing in my zones. I think that’s a shame. And when I see that, it makes it difficult for me to come to those spaces as well. So that forces me to adjust my runs, based on the position of my fellow players.”
Many will see these words as an indirect criticism of Moyes, who now faces the prospect of his debut season at Old Trafford being their worst campaign for two decades. Already out of both domestic cup competitions in January, the reigning champions are in sixth place in the Premier League, 11 points adrift of fourth-place Liverpool, and must now overturn a two-goal deficit against the Greeks to progress in the Champions League.
Van Persie’s isn’t the first United player to question an aspect of the tactics the team have deployed under the new regime this season. In December, Rio Ferdinand made his thoughts clear on Moyes’ policy of only naming his side at the last minute. The former England international said: “You spend a lot of nervous energy wondering if you are playing or not, and you’re just going round in circles in your head and turning into a madman.”
The omission of Adnan Januzaj, arguably United’s best player this season, was also greeted with much surprise in Athens. Moyes has explained his decision on the fact he felt this was a good time to take the youngster out of the first team and rest him, choosing to play Tom Cleverley instead, despite the fact they now have 10 games before they resume their fixture list with an away league match at West Bromwich Albion on 8 March.