“For me, he’s the best striker in the world and it was a pleasure to be able to share moments in training with him,” said Vela told The Independent.
However, that doesn’t mean for a minute that the Mexico international won’t be looking to get the better of the Dutchman and his team when they meet on Thursday.
Sociedad have shown real promise in the Champions League this season and while Manchester United will obviously be firm favourites for the fixture given their prestige and home advantage, recent struggles for the Red Devils will no doubt give Real hope they can spring an upset on David Moyes’s men.
Especially if the apprentice can usurp the master at his own game.
No other Sociedad player has achieved a higher Performance Score than Vela has this season.
In his eight league appearances to date, Vela has netted two goals (the equal most in the team) at a 14.3 per cent conversion rate. What’s been most stunning has been his goal-creation, though, with the striker creating 17 total chances so far this year—two of which have been converted as assists.
Only the in-form Diego Costa has accounted for as many key passes among forwards in La Liga this year, and if United’s defense is not fully prepared for Vela’s creative skills, then his season total could be set to rise even further.
Van Persie’s threat is clearly known. Seen most clearly by him winning the Premier League’s Golden Boot Award last year, the Dutch striker is a prolific goalscorer who is simply devastating in front of the net. In just six starts this year, Van Persie has netted four goals, giving him a chance conversion percentage of 18.2 per cent.
And as he showed against Southampton, he’s more than simply a striker at the top of the attack ready to run on to a chance created by someone behind him; he’s active, and willing to search for the ball—a trait that Vela has clearly acquired in his game also.
Just who prevails at Old Trafford on Wednesday remains to be seen, and there’s a good chance that the final score will come down to more than just the respective performances of Van Persie and Vela.
However, given the form that both have shown already this year and the talent that clearly exists in both men, don’t be surprised if either former Arsenal striker makes his presence felt in a big way on the grandest football stage of them all.