Early Doors

Will 2013 be the year of Van Persie, again?

During his time at Arsenal, Robin van Persie memorably christened his weaker right leg his "chocolate leg". Yesterday, as he scored against Wigan with an extravagant sweep of that same limb, it was clear that what was once a Chomp is now firmly a Milk Tray.

Van Persie's ever increasing ambidextrousness has run parallel with his evolution into the Premier League's best player bar none, and if, in England at least, 2012 was the year of Van Persie, the first day of 2013 suggested more of the same.

Two goals and an assist against Wigan - no matter how good the first - isn't a particularly impressive feat in isolation. Early Doors could probably give Gary Caldwell a bit of trouble on a good day. But just like at Arsenal last season, Van Persie's relentless pursuit of excellence really is a sight to behold. He just performs each and every week.

ED recently wrote that the fact United have such a healthy lead at the top of the table is pretty bizarre given the fact they actually have an average team, at least by Sir Alex Ferguson's standards. A leaky defence, a characterless midfield, but, crucially, one outstanding individual who continues to make the difference.

When he convinced the Glazers to put aside loan interest repayments for a minute to invest £24 million in Van Persie last summer, Fergie said he expected the Dutchman to be a catalyst like Eric Cantona once was and inspire his new team-mates to raise their games.

While that hasn't quite happened - no human alive could force Anderson to slim down or Nani to become consistent - Van Persie has quickly become United's most crucial player and one who has carried them for a good portion of this season.

Before the New Year's Day fixtures, Roberto Mancini lamented his failure to sign Van Persie from Arsenal this summer and said City were "very close" to getting the deal done. But not close enough, and now they are paying for it as United keep hoovering up points at borderline record pace, driven on by the deadly Dutchman.

Unsurprisingly, Fergie couldn't help but gloat a bit when asked about Van Persie's impact after the Wigan victory.

“Robin is a completely rounded footballer,” he said. “His ability to make and take goals is fantastic.

“His play for his first goal was absolutely magnificent. His turn, his balance, there was no drawback, he just sidefooted it in, it was a really good goal. We knew we were getting a top player, a major player. That’s why we went for him.

“I knew he would make the difference because of his maturity, and I made the point at the time, because he has great international experience. He’s played for Arsenal for seven years and he came to us at the very peak of his career.”

What appeared at the time to be one of the biggest coups in Premier League history has proved to be a faultless move by Ferguson. As prolific as Ruud van Nistelrooy and as brilliant as Cantona, Van Persie is already shaping up to be one of United's great strikers.

He appears to be revelling in the challenge of being a United player too, explaining yesterday, in words that are sure to twist the knife for any Arsenal fans reading this morning: "We have to look at it game by game but everybody wants to be champions. I feel that I'm surrounded by champions.

"This is a special team. Everybody wants to help each other. Everybody's keen for everyone to score. Defenders are working their socks off for the midfielders, the midfielders are working for the strikers... everybody wants to run and everybody has one target in their mind. They know how to win and that makes it really easy for me."

At 29 it is a bit surprising that a man as outrageously talented as Van Persie only has an FA Cup winner's medal to show for a lengthy career in English football - but for years he was wasted at a club in Arsenal that notably lacks the qualities listed by Van Persie above.

Now that he has found a team worthy of his talent, and with his regular supply of goals ensuring United keep picking up points at such an impressive rate, 2013 looks set to finally be a year of professional fulfilment for English football's best player.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “There is nothing better than to go and watch City win on your day off. I’m into the spirit. I know how the city is separated between City and United. I’m torn between the two clubs. I want to wish everyone a ‘Hoffy’ New Year.” - David Hasselhoff, of course, speaking after watching Manchester City defeat Stoke City 3-0 on New Year's Day to keep within seven points of United.

FOREIGN VIEW: "I have to battle, fight and try to get my place back. That's the goal I have and I am hopeful the coach will choose me in the starting line-up on Sunday. What is really important is that the 11 players the coach picks do their best. The institution and the club come before Casillas." - Bet you'd almost forgotten about the storm brewing in Spain after Jose Mourinho dropped Iker Casillas for the first time in 10 years. Will he do so again for Sunday's game against Real Sociedad?

COMING UP: We are being treated to three Premier League games tonight. Chelsea v QPR and Liverpool v Sunderland both kick off at 7.45pm while Newcastle host Everton at 8pm. To keep you going during the day though we have blogs from Jim White, James Horncastle and Andy Mitten.

Oh, and did we mention that today brings the triumphant return of Eurobot? He's been packed up in Styrofoam since August so is a bit grumpy today, but what better way to spend the day than hassling him for information about Wesley Sneijder?