Van Persie key in Man United's title charge
Sir Alex Ferguson was relieved to welcome a fit Robin van Persie back to Manchester ahead of Saturday’s clash against Wigan at Old Trafford.
The Dutch forward, who has started the season in impressive goal-scoring form for United, came off at half-time of Holland’s 4-1 victory over Turkey with a thigh injury.
But it appears that his removal from that World Cup qualifier was merely a precaution and, with England centre-forward Wayne Rooney still sidelined after cutting his leg badly in the recent win over Fulham, van Persie’s fitness is all the more important for United.
Former United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel has certainly been impressed by the start the Dutchman has made to his United career, with four goals in his first three appearances.
“The very important thing is Robin van Persie absolutely chose us,” said Schmeichel. “He wanted to come to us, it wasn’t a question of us paying more than Manchester City or any other club.
He wanted to be with Manchester United and that, I think, is the most important thing.
“He has been perfect for what we needed to do. We have brought the right player in.” That concluding day of last season, when United lost the league title on goal difference to bitter rivals Manchester City, remains a painful memory for Ferguson and his team.
Thanks to van Persie, the Reds have scored six goals in their last two league games — wins over Fulham and Southampton — but their goal difference only remains at plus one.
United’s Brazilian midfielder Anderson, however, believes that van Persie and fellow pre-season signing Shinji Kagawa, the Japan midfielder, will make a significant difference.
“I think the team looks good,” said Anderson. “At the beginning of the season it’s always difficult but we’ve got a couple of wins and now we want more.
“Shinji Kagawa and Robin van Persie have a lot of quality. They make it easier for the rest of the team when they have so much talent. It also means everybody works harder to try and keep their own place.” Wigan’s visit to Old Trafford offers United a chance for revenge after the Latics delivered a fatal blow to Ferguson’s Premier League title ambitions last season.
Battling relegation, Roberto Martinez’s side secured a surprise 1-0 win at the DW Stadium in April, but they have failed to pick up a single point in any of their seven Premier League visits to Old Trafford.
Wigan have scored just once at United’s home, a stoppage-time penalty by Leighton Baines on Boxing Day 2006, and have conceded 24 times.
In addition, they have had three players sent off in their last two visits to United — Conor Sammon, Antolin Alcaraz and Hugo Rodallega.
Defender Alcaraz is a major doubt with a groin injury he suffered in Paraguay’s 2-0 home defeat to Venezuela in a World Cup qualifier in midweek.
Martinez believes the best way Wigan can end their miserable run of form at Old Trafford is to forget who they are up against.
“Our performance against United at the DW Stadium last season was everything we wanted,” Martinez said.
“We were in a very difficult position in the table and needed the points. In many ways we forgot who we were playing against.
“That’s something we need to do at Old Trafford. We have to perform. It will be a really tough test but we have to be ourselves and be our best individually.”