Disappointing start for Van Persie and Ferguson's men
The Dutchman’s belated introduction gave him little chance to start repaying that big transfer fee writes JAMIE JACKSON
ONE QUESTION was, could they play together? Related to this was the next one: how afraid would defences across the land be after watching Everton try to repel Wayne Rooney in tandem with Robin van Persie, who only signed on at Old Trafford last Friday.
When the team sheet dropped Manchester United supporters and all football aficionados would have to wait longer. Until the 68th-minute, in fact. Van Persie would enter in the second half for a 22-minute cameo too short to offer any definitive answers to the above, especially as United were by then chasing the game.
In this spell the Dutchman’s first touch in United’s new gingham shirt would be a corner and in another notable offering he played a ball in that Shinji Kagawa might have finished. But little else materialised.
Alex Ferguson’s 4-2-3-1 starting line-up still had stardust sprinkled over its business end: the playmaker Kagawa, excellent throughout, made his debut behind the lone striker.
So it was Rooney who started the business of spearheading United’s tilt at a 20th championship and dethroning Manchester City.
The Japanese-Liverpudlian axis required eight minutes to unlock Everton’s defence. Kagawa’s swivel-then-pass beyond Sylvain Distin was laid inch-perfect into Rooney’s surge and after looking up inside the area the favour was returned with a rolling ball the ex-Borussia Dortmund man just failed to collect.
This was about as fluid as Rooney – and United – managed during a stop-start performance.
A concentration lapse from Rooney allowed Darron Gibson to nick possession near Everton’s area. And, after Paul Scholes dumped his former colleague to the ground, from the ensuing play Marouane Fellaini burned off auxiliary centre-back Michael Carrick before smacking the ball against David de Gea’s right post.
Rooney struggled for any consistent touch or contribution. Twice he dropped deeper to find the ball and the sense was that Ferguson might rejig his attack and bring on Van Persie as soon as the break, allow Rooney to drop into Kagawa’s berth in the ‘hole’, and the new signing replace him at United’s head.
This would have to wait and when it happened the formation was more an old fashioned 4-4-2. Before the interval Rooney did manage a 30-yard free-kick that spun and dipped forcing Tim Howard to palm away for a corner. The striker also fired an awkward left foot shot straight at the goalkeeper.
On August 17th, 2002, Wayne Mark Rooney had first stepped onto this turf in the blue of Everton to start one of the fine Premier League careers which, at 26, may only be halfway through.
David Moyes, the Everton manager then and now, handed Rooney that debut – against Tottenham Hotspur in a 2-2 draw – and nurtured him into the prized asset that left for United in the summer of 2004.
Two years ago Moyes said of him: “Nobody can take credit for Wayne’s development. He is the last of the street players. You can see that in his physique, in his development, in his all-round football play. . .”
Van Persie also learned on the street – those of his native Kralingen, in Rotterdam – where a ball would be thumped against the wall of the family home. As he continued to watch from the bench, Rooney and Kagawa illustrated a developing understanding that augurs well for United’s season.
Then, disaster – and Fellaini – struck and United were a goal behind with 33 minutes remaining. Ferguson greeted this by sending Van Persie to warm up.
His own Premier League bow came in September 2004 in a 1-0 Arsenal win at Manchester City when Ashley Cole still played for the Gunners and the Blues’ Joey Barton spent long days waiting for the invention of Twitter.
Now Van Persie was on for his United debut but he was given no chance to start repaying that fee on a disappointing evening for him and his new club.