van Persie could benefit from new role

Robin van Persie, Swansea

Wayne Rooney’s recent declaration that he is happy at Manchester United now that he is playing as a striker under David Moyes has been interpreted in a number of ways. But setting aside the claim and its message for a moment it is good to remember that Rooney had his best season in 2009/10 during which the Scouser played primarily as a traditional number nine. Given that Rooney lacks the typical qualities of a real number 10, or a winger for that matter, Moyes can be excused for using the Englishman as a striker given the player’s history.

But Moyes system has provoke a number of tactical question, some of which might be alleviated by using Dutchman Robin van Persie in a new role.

Moyes’ system, in which full backs are encouraged to aggressively provide width, means that Old Trafford’s two central midfielders – Michael Carrick and Marouanne Fellaini as the first choice pair – cannot push forward without risk. Meanwhile, United’s wingers have been encouraged to cut inside with Rafael da Silva and Patrice Evra pushing high up the pitch.

Yet, in the system there is also a clear need for someone to occupy the space between the main striker – Javier Hernandez or van Persie – and central midfield. It was a role Sir Alex Ferguson asked Rooney to fulfill in the Scot’s last Premier League winning side, leaving the Reds with a variety of channels in which to attack.

Typically Moyes deploys a forward in the hole, but this nominal number 10 has looked to attack the box late more than providing an additional passing option in the attacking third.

Theoretically United’s wide man are required to link midfield with attack, while the full-backs crosses from wide areas – turning Moyes’ formation from a 4-4-1-1 into a 4-2-2-2 in the attacking phase. However, there are weaknesses in United’s team that inhibit the Scot’s plan. The lack of a spare man in defense and Evra’s poor positional awareness has limited United’s opportunities in the final third, for example.

Additionally in recent matches against Southampton and Liverpool the opposition pressed United’s midfield duo heavily, forcing the Reds to attack almost exclusively down the flanks. Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia were shown the byline at Anfield, while Adnan Januzaj and Nani were fouled into submission at Old Trafford. In each United’s attack was predictable and blunted.

Moyes attempted to introduce a holding midfielder in European competition, but the United squad is loaded with forwards, and deploying a number 10 that links midfield and attack is surely more of a priority. Without this additional passing option in the middle United is forced to into wide areas, as has been the case in recent games.

With Rooney seemingly preferring a more direct role, Shinji Kagawa is the one man in the United squad capable of providing the missing link. Yet, dropping van Persie for Kagawa is unthinkable, leaving the Japanese out of favour and questioning his future at the club.

Moyes has always been keen on keen on having a player arrive late into the opposition box, which offers two separate targets to aim at with balls from wide areas. At Everton Tim Cahill and latterly Fellaini fulfilled the role, while at Old Trafford Rooney’s aerial presence might be weighing heavily in the former Everton manager’s mind.

Meanwhile, van Persie appears to be increasingly isolated in a United shirt, with United’s system not bringing the best out of the record Netherlands’ goalscorer.

These challenges bring to mind the once radical concept of false nine – a forward who drops deep – which is now mainstream tactical thinking. It is a role that might suit United’s Dutchman – in fact van Persie often played the role for Arsenal to great effect, with the former Arsenal player and Cesc Fabregas often devastating as a pair.

In Catalonia Lionel Messi is Barcelona’s false nine and his heroics outshine the fact that Barça’s wingers benefit from the space created by the Argentinean. At Old Trafford, allowing van Persie to drop deep might force opposition defenders to choose between letting the Dutchman crowd midfield or following him and leaving a gap in the defensive line.

Rooney and United’s wingers might even benefit from the additional movement in forward areas. The fact that Rooney, Januzaj and van Persie can all play as false nine suggests that the seemingly easy tactical switch of encouraging a forward to drop deep could inject the flair that United is desperate for.

In the plan van Persie will benefit from more touches of the ball, while United’s possession game – with just 76 per cent of passes completed against Southampton – will improve. The Dutchman’s presence in the hole would also allow midfielders to attack and Fellaini to offer his physical presence in the attacking third.

Retaining the ball for longer is advantageous in most situations, but it is particularly useful for United since Evra is better in the attacking than the defensive third.

Moyes is well known for his conservatism, but the concept of false nine is well documented and field tested. Spain won Euro 2012 with Cesc Fabregas dropping off opposition defenders, and Sir Alex is one of the pioneers of false nine, having used both Cristiano Ronaldo and Rooney in the role.

It is a bold step, but using van Persie in a new role could both solve many of United’s attacking problems and negate the need to bring in new attacking players, of whom Moyes may have little trust in any case.

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  1. or just play a 4-3-1-2 with Kagawa, Wayne and RvP as the front three

  2. just doesn’t look happy RVP, does he? He might feel SAF shafted him by signing him and then leaving!

  3. RVP is not happy cause Rooney is given preferential treatment and un-droppable from the team just because he was silking and threatened to leave, if fergie was still the manager the club would probably have sold this trash to some european or turkish club…….this sacrifices the service from midfield to RVP and restricts the ball movement whilst Rooneys stupid runs around the whole field constantly causes man utd to lose ball posession, cause Rooney thinks that he is a good dribbler but reality is he is just another english lemon… the Southampton match Rooney nearly caused goals against us when he lost the ball to opposition in our own final third……To make RVP smile again is simple, drop Rooney on the bench and bring on Kagawa or Hernandez…….If its Kagawa then he can play as a real no. 10, whilst if its Hernandez then he can play up front as the striker and RVP can play as a false 9…….unfortunately Moyes and his Everton coaches are just too stupid and scared to do this for fear of offending Rooney and his advisors cause players like Rooney, Rio, Giggs, Carrick are actually running the show at the club nowadays, thats why garbage like Welbeck plays ahead of Hernandez.

    • Well said. Rooney under illusion that he can dribble. He is just a British bulldog. Cartoon Welbeck is like speeding Gonzales who always fell down. Does Moyes have the balls to drop(rest) Rooney and let Persie or Kagawa run the midfield?

    • Arne’t you the racist, you should watch and support a football team from your own country or background as you seem to hate Englishmen!

      Good job you’re not a manager or coach because your understanding of off-ball tactics is on the minus side of things.

      Most times Van Persie is no more than a goal hanger who doesn’t track back, you should watch what is happening when people have the ball and what they are doing when they haven’t and how they track back and support with false runs etc,…this is a very simplistic way to try to explain why some people “run about” as you describe it!

  4. Denton Davey says:

    Close – but no cigar.

    Rather than having a trio of “false nines”, it seems to me that the way forward is to have a proper striker (Chicharito) who can create space behind him, between-the-lines, for an interchanging trio (take your pick from Nani, AdnanJ, RVP, TheWayneBoy, and KagawaBunga).

    The selection of the “three” might be easier if the manager smelled-the-coffee (or watched video-tapes !) and moved TheWayneBoy into midfield. Yeah, I know, Rooney “wants” to play as a striker but there’s no “i” in T-E-A-M.

    Having MC16 and TheBigFella in midfield seemed like a good idea but the two of them are just too slow. RedNev wrote an article this weekend saying that UTD’s attacking play was just too slow. Well, yeah – I mean, NoShitSherlock – even I could figure that out just watching the shower-of-shite that have characterized most of the matches played so far this season.

    Talk about formations is pointless because when the ball is in play there is a chaotic dynamic. Playing a strictly-structured system with touchline-hugging wingers isn’t going to work – and, indeed, hasn’t worked so far this season which is why AV25 and AshleyBloodyYoung are on the bench (or in the stands). Having talented forwards – and UTD have talented attacking players (errr – not all of them but RVP, AdnanJ, TheWayneBoy, Nani, and ShinjiSan have great skill) – works best when these guys are given liberty and licence to play at-speed.

    Playing an interchanging set of “withdrawn forwards” who link midfield and attack also provides space for a penalty-box poacher and UTD have the best one in world footie languishing on the bench. Not only is he very fast with a nose-for-space but Chicharito is one of the few players – maybe the only one – who drives-the-net,providing a near-post target. His presence – and the threat of his movement – provides an outlet for forward passing as opposed to perimeter-passing around a defensive wall.

    • The_Philosopher says:

      I think David Moyes is a colossal idiot for keeping Wayne Rooney.

      The presence of Mr-me-first Wayne Rooney now means that we cannot field RVP, Nani, Kagawa, Zaha and Januzaj in an attacking 5 with Michael Carrick or Phil Jones providing defensive mid cover.

      I like what you say about formations going out the window due to the chaotic dynamic. What that means is that it is more important to play a group of players who have a natural chemistry rather than individuals who a supposed star players like Wayne Rooney.

      • The_Philosopher says:

        RVP strikes.

        Nani takes the left flank.

        Zaha takes the right flank.

        Januzaj and Kagawa bring the ball from the back up to the front in tandem.

        PHil Jones tackles like a machine in the middle.

        Vidic and Smalling man the back.

        Evra and Rafael provide support as when it is needed.

        Goals galore.


  5. akori shadrach says:

    well 4 me less just try and use it against real sociedad but rember kagawa is also there to b use.moyes should also give kagawa a trial d way is given 2 janujaz.

  6. We need to overhaul our team, players like Valencia, young, Anderson, Evra, Giggs, should leave I don’t see how a coach will leave Kagawa on the bench and play Giggs instead. If Moyes isn’t ready for the job he can throw in the towel, his poor decision has caused us too many points thus far

  7. Am tired of dis while shit!!!!! If moyes is not ready p

    Pls get rid off him

  8. untd play with Rvp seems not 2 b working bcus of lack of droping back on his part,Rvp is gud whn running at defenses.In d mater of keeping possesion utd needs wayne rooney to b more astute when on d ball,with carrick bringing d wingers in.
    Man utd can play kagawa bhind rooney n Rvp wit 1 winger on d right gving d left back lincense 2 run foward as a false wing forward with felliani or MC covering his position.

  9. WhY can’t we play a 4 3 1 2 which we will have 2 defensive midfielders in the person of fellaini and carrick and a winger in either the right wing or the left. Leaving kagawa behind the two strikers rooney and RVP.mancity played this formation last season and they still use it.leaving two central midfielders alone and using two wide players makes our midfield porous especially playing kick and follow moyes games.

  10. Just speculative stuff, innit? Doesn’t change anything You’re a creature of the mind JS.

    Wonder if DM can convince Roy Keane to be a coach at OT…

  11. I seem to recall in an interview RVP said both he and Rooney were 9 1/2s.

    Why not stick with that? RVP and WR interchanging.
    Incidentally I dont think RVP is fit, he is carrying an injury.

  12. Maybe worrying about our players first touch and control of the ball and not losing it straight away would improve whatever formation we play. Our ball possession is shit.

  13. D answer to all ds is a 433 formation. One striker, three central mfs and two wingers

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