RVP breaks United record and Arsenal hearts

Posted by Mark Payne

Gareth Bale collected the football Player of the Year award on Sunday night but Manchester United's Robin van Persie has not completely missed out. Although not acknowledged by his colleagues in the PFA, van Persie has achieved something arguably greater. On Sunday he scored the goal that ensures that his is the most prolific league season of any new United signing.

- Okwonga: Van Persie spot on in Arsenal return
- Evra disappointed by RVP boos

Denis Law managed 23 league goals in his debut campaign at United, the same number as Ruud van Nistelrooy. The previous top scorer in a debut season was Brian McClair, one of Sir Alex Ferguson's first signings. 'Choccy' netted 24 times back in Division 1 in 1987-88. That season he was the first United player to score twenty in a season since George Best.

After just eight months at United, it is not an exaggeration to say that van Persie has earned comparison with some of the best players the club has had. The Dutchman's season has been exceptional, but had the last couple of months gone differently, he could easily have won the PFA award too. Unfortunately, he hit a dip in form at just the wrong time for the voting. No matter, he will no doubt be happy with a league championship medal.

Ten days ago odds were beginning to shorten on Luis Suarez taking home the award. The Uruguayan has destroyed almost every team he has faced and has proven himself to be one of the best players in the world. Then came 'the incident'. Based purely on the strength of his performances though, his case for winning is just as good as van Persie's.

Van Persie catches the eye for all manner of reasons. It isn't just his football; it is his enthusiasm for the game and the honesty that he brings to his job. Although not squeaky clean, the Dutchman is not associated with the serial diving that blights Bale's reputation. And he will never have a rap sheet that can match Suarez.

This week Arsene Wenger said that van Persie deserved respect on his return to Arsenal. Inevitably, he scored the goal that salvaged a point for United. As with his strike against Arsenal earlier in the season, he didn't celebrate.

Not only does van Persie deserve respect, he is happy to give it to those he has encountered along the way. It is a shame that the Arsenal fans at the Emirates could not return the favour.

Bale at Tottenham has put the fear of God into every defence he has faced. This is the season when he has developed from being a very good player to potentially a great one. His strength and speed have earned him comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo and they don’t seem far from the target some days.

However, many claim that Bale has not been consistent and didn't really start to mesmerise until Christmas. While that may be true, RVP was very quiet in January, February and March and can be said to have had a slightly patchy bid himself.

What is often not mentioned is the impact Moussa Dembele has had at Tottenham. Their win percentage with him in the side is 69%, higher than Bale's, and he didn't even get a nomination. Much like Manchester United's unsexy candidate, Michael Carrick, he is destined to always be the bridesmaid.

Follow Mark on www.twitter.com/markjpayne

ESPN Conversations