Manchester United face the prospect of losing the Premier League's leading goalscorer for the last two seasons as Robin van Persie examines his options away from Old Trafford. As the champions struggle under David Moyes' new managerial regime, the Netherlands striker's advisers have contacted leading European clubs to assess what avenues are open to him elsewhere.
Though Moyes is a great admirer of Van Persie's abilities, the Scot has effectively ended Van Persie's status as United's most important player in his efforts to rehabilitate Wayne Rooney's career. The decision to award what is regarded as “special treatment” to Rooney has returned 10 goals in 21 games from the England international, yet come with dangerous repercussions.
Rooney's focus on training, his struggles to keep his weight down, and his commitment to United were all questioned during Sir Alex Ferguson's final season at the club -- a campaign that was followed by the England international's very public attempt to secure a lucrative contract elsewhere. It is thought that Moyes has made an error of man management in allowing Rooney to feel that he is the team's key figure again now that Ferguson has retired.
While Rooney has responded positively to this change, with a direct involvement in 14 of United's 25 Premier League goals so far, the team as a whole has not. Despite Sunday's 3-0 win at Aston Villa, United languish in eighth place, 10 points behind first-place Arsenal, with as many defeats in 16 League outings as in the whole of Ferguson's final campaign.
Part of Moyes' response has been to question the quality of squad he inherited from the most successful manager in United's history. He wants to move on several of that group in the January window if possible, believing that the club made a mistake in retaining them this summer.
"Maybe we would have looked to have moved a few players out but you can only do that if you get clubs that come in and are interested,” Moyes said. His position on transfer-market activity, however, is undermined by Marouane Fellaini's subpar performance since Moyes requested the Belgian be signed from Everton for a fee of £27.5m.
Van Persie will not play for United again in 2013 having suffered a thigh injury following the toe and groin problems earlier in the season.
The player's options are limited by both his age and the scale of his current contract. Van Persie has two-and-a-half seasons remaining on the four-year contract he agreed with United upon leaving Arsenal in 2012, and as the club's best-paid player earns over £200,000 a week. Barcelona are interested in the 30-year-old's services, but consider him too expensive when United's expected asking price of €40m is factored in.
A strong-minded individual who is determined to conclude his career with as much silverware as possible, Van Persie forced an exit from the final year of his Arsenal contract because he was unconvinced by the team's immediate prospects. He provisionally agreed to terms with Manchester City several months before leaving Arsenal, ultimately choosing United when Ferguson approached him.