Why benching Robin van Persie against Arsenal could be a master-stroke.
Manchester United face Arsenal on Saturday in a match Louis van Gaal may want to win for the benefit of his own reputation as much as his club’s domestic campaign.
Recent games against Chelsea and Manchester City have seen United take just a single point – and that after a last-gasp strike from Robin van Persie against the current league leaders.
Van Gaal is yet to oversee a great victory since taking charge at Old Trafford, but win at the Emirates Stadium this weekend and he would have one in the bag.
It will be easier said than done, with the Gunners in desperate need of a pick-me-up themselves having dropped some costly defensive clangers in recent weeks, but there is one way van Gaal could make an away win a little more likely.
Dropping van Persie to the bench against his former club would be a potential master-stroke, allowing the Holland international to simmer on the side-lines until he can be unleashed late on.
If Radamel Falcao is fit and ready to start – and the latest rumours are that he could well be – then dropping van Persie would not be a risk as much as a calculated gamble.
After all, van Gaal’s countryman will be raring to go against his former club, hoping to net at a ground where he once scored regularly, and not getting that chance will frustrate him.
In a match that is likely to be tight affair, a van Persie desperate to get on and prove it was wrong to start without him could be a dangerous beast. And it could be one that ultimately secures the three points for United.
Up until now the arrival of Falcao has not meant van Persie losing his place, but if he does – at the one ground he will be desperate not to – it could prompt him to up his game just when van Gaal needs him to the most.