Manchester United had a single main point to address from their Premier League campaign over 2011/2012 and that was to score more goals. The arrival of Robin van Persie seems to have done the trick.
The Dutchman has scored 14 goals in league games which is one of the main reasons the club are sitting six points clear at the top of the table with more goals scored than anyone else.
The main problem for United through the first half of the season has been conceding goals. The club have been put under pressure through poor defending which has meant narrow wins against Southampton, Reading, Chelsea, Manchester City and many other sides.
The good news is that the key defenders in the team are now fit and firing unlike the start of the season when the club was forced to play the likes of Michael Carrick in central defence and Antonio Valencia at full back.
It’s positive for United because they are traditionally stronger over the second half of the season, Sir Alex Ferguson has said that when his side are in the mix after January, they are always in the title race by the end of the year.
“Most of them have got experience of the second half of the season.
Sometimes it has been good and sometimes it has been disappointing but we are always there – we are always still there and challenging in the second half of the season.”
United lost the league last season by a single goal which was scored with effectively the last kick of the season. This prompted United to go all out to sign van Persie who seems to have had more of an effect than simply scoring goals at the club.
That belief is something that United have never lost but the manager deserves a lot of praise for identifying the reason they didn’t win the league last season and rectifying it.
Robin van Persie has come in and his quality and effect is something which is rubbing off on the rest of the attacking players in the side.
Ferguson said about the addition of van Persie:
“The attacking aspect of our game has definitely improved and of course he has weighed in with 14 goals so far.
Without van Persie then the narrow wins talked about above would not have been possible. United brought in a ready made Premier League striker, free of past injury problems and he has won the club more points than he’s lost.
van Persie scored goals in each of the wins against Southampton, Chelsea, Reading and Manchester City and the fact he hit the ground running at the club has worked wonders for their league position.
“He had a great spell at Arsenal so there is no issue with him needing to settle into the Premier League.
He came from one big club to another big club and he is an established international. All these things in his profile suited us perfectly.”
Ferguson has also commented on the importance of having a selection of top class strikers who he can rotate for the rest of the season. Normally there would be suggestions of unhappy players due to regular appearances but this doesn’t seem to be a problem for United because all of the strikers are contributing goals.
Parallels are being constantly drawn to the variety of strikers the club had when they won the treble back in 1999 and the importance that each of the four strikers makes over the course of a season.
“The comparison is the numbers, having four strikers is a definite advantage – they never really complained about being left out as long as felt they were making a contribution and that year we won the treble which made them easier to manage.”
This is very important looking ahead to the second half of the season where United will come under heavy fire from rivals at all angles. They also have a Champions League to try and win as underdogs.
Ferguson has highlighted the issue of conceding early goals as the only thing which can stop United from securing the Premier League title and also trying to take on the best teams in Europe.
Now they have a bit of day light at the top of the league, it’s difficult to see them giving that ground up in the build up to May. United have a current record of 14 wins and three defeats having scored 43 goals and conceding 24.