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- May 8, 2011
Why Robin van Persie could be Manchester United's odd man out this summer - Steve Bates - Mirror Online
Against the backdrop of Manchester United's beefed-up tilt for a top four finish speculation has been raging about the futures of David de Gea, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao.
Will de Gea stay? Is Di Maria happy enough to stick around next season after a miserable debut campaign in the Premier League?
And just what will United do about Colombian conundrum Falcao as his loan spell enters its final phase?
But there's another United A-lister who could make a surprise exit before any of them – Robin van Persie.
Van Persie's future has flown under the radar, probably aided by his recent absence after picking up an ankle injury in the defeat at Swansea five weeks ago.
The 31-year-old Dutchman is now raring to go again after intensive fitness sessions during the international break.
He's said to have trained ferociously in the last few days – and you can't help but think it's because he has a point to make.
Van Persie's goals single-handedly carried United to their last League title in 2013, but as he chases a new contract maybe he has just as much to prove as Falcao.
On the face of it, you'd imagine Louis van Gaal would be more interested in signing defenders than attackers this summer.
But United have a key decision to make on van Persie as well as Falcao.
Van Persie only has fifteen months left on his deal and would desperately like to end his best days at Old Trafford.
With no hint yet of a new deal for the Holland forward, it's not clear whether United feel quite the same way.
Certainly they aren't as bullish as when Sir Alex Ferguson asked the club's board back in August 2012 to break with protocol and splash £24million on the Arsenal striker who only days earlier had turned 29.
Snatching back the Premier League from Manchester City in van Persie's first season was more than payback for the outlay.
But van Persie's impact on United since that 30-goal first season hasn't been as dramatic – or as consistent.
And that's left many United fans wondering if van Persie – 32 in August - really is worth a new deal.
The World Cup striker has produced a dwindling return since that spectacular debut season scoring 12 times last season in 21 League games and only 10 in 24 Premier League games in the current campaign.
The reliability has gone and with it the feeling that van Persie can ever recapture the golden form that made Ferguson's farewell season so special.
Since playing as the main striker in van Persie's absence captain Wayne Rooney has led United to four straight Premier League wins.
They included victories away at Newcastle and Liverpool as well as a thumping 3-0 Old Trafford triumph over Tottenham with Rooney scoring three times.
There are other compelling factors that make a new contract for van Persie, on a reported £200,000-a-week, more than just a numbers game.
With van Persie sidelined United have looked better balanced and a more potent force with many pundits believing the duo have never formed the best of attacking partnerships.
The Dutchman will always have an eye for goal, but he's not getting any quicker and as the seasons tick by early career injuries may catch him up.
The most he could hope for under United's current over-30s policy is a one year extension.
That may force him to look to MLS in America, even if he does have a couple of years on Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.
United are scouring Europe for attacking talent with Real Madrid's Gareth Bale, PSV Eindhoven's Memphis Depay as well as Palermo's emerging Argentinian striker Paulo Dybala on their radar.
Before they open the transfer cheque-book, though, they have to decide whether to invest in a new agreement for van Persie.
They could, of course, let van Persie's contract drift into its final year as he has no significant sell-on value.
Hard-line fans, however, would prefer a clean break in the summer and an influx of fresh talent for a title challenge next time round.
Over to you Louis.