How Man Utd’s lethal weapon became a blunt instrument

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When football historians look back at Manchester United’s dreadful 2013/14 campaign, they could be forgiven for absolving Red Devils striker Robin van Persie of much of the blame for his side’s malaise.

After all, the Dutch hitman’s been laid up through injury for 19 of United’s 43 fixtures in all competitions this term and has come up with the goalscoring goods 14 times in the 24 matches he’s played in.

However, the manner of RVP’s performances this season suggests the man who’s topped the Premier League scoring charts for the last two campaigns is fast becoming a flat-track bully.

After notching seven goals in matches against Liverpool, Chelsea, Everton, Tottenham and Arsenal in his first season at Old Trafford – which included the winner against United’s most bitter rivals – the 30-year-old has managed to bag just once against that quintet this term.

Indeed, Van Persie’s only two strikes against top-ten teams so far in 2013/14 came when Southampton grabbed a late draw at Old Trafford in October, followed by the only goal of the game against his old employers Arsenal, who went down 1-0 in the north west last November.

He’s fared even worse in the Champions League, drawing blanks in four of the five matches he’s dragged himself onto the pitch for and scoring just once, in the 4-2 Group A home win against Bayer Leverkusen all the way back in mid-September.

Having laid on nine assists in 38 Premier League appearances last season, the 30-year-old has managed just three in 18 top-flight outings this term and is yet to play in any of his teammates for a European goal under David Moyes.

This gives credence to whispers, compounded by Van Persie’s accusations that his forward partners stole his space during the 2-0 loss at Olympiacos, that the Netherlands legend is ‘working to rule’ under Moyes and will agitate for a move this summer, despite his recent protestations to the contrary.

Dark clouds refuse to dissipate over Old Trafford and the ailing Premier League champions can’t be tipped with any confidence to beat the Greek side at 4/9.

Furthermore, the 15/8 odds on United qualifying for the quarter-finals seem far too short considering their current form and Olympiacos’ two-goal lead.

The Piraeus-based side, who were crowned champions of Greece for the 41st time after their recent 2-0 win against Panthrakikos, have won all but seven of their 36 matches this season.

They look wildly overpriced at 11/2 to inflict a seventh home defeat on United in all competitions since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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