The false nine. Usually an attacking midfielder deployed in the typical position a centre forward would occupy. This ‘false nineness’ entered the consciousness of the footballing fraternity when Francesco Totti was used in this position for Roma and, more recently, when Lionel Messi and Cesc Fabregas false nined for Barcelona and Spain respectively.
The Manchester United number seven. The talisman, the maverick, the craftsman. The best player, the most iconic player at the club and, quite simply, the man.
From George Best to Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona to David Beckham. Then from Cristiano Ronaldo to nobody, in the form of Micahel Owen, and most recently, from Antonio Valencia to nobody…literally in the form of nobody.
So where is the talisman, the maverick and the man? Step forward Robin Van Persie – United’s false seven.
Sporting the modest number 20 shirt, last season’s controversial signing was labelled as too old, as injury prone and as somebody who had only really had one good season. He had none of the much loved ‘sell-on potential’ and, according to some commentators, was too similar to Wayne Rooney.
One title-winning season later and, based on the transfer prices bandied around this summer, you would have to say he was a bargain that even Martin Lewis would have been proud of.
The first words from every United hater’s lips is that we only won the title because we had Van Persie. Partly true, but surely not a tool to mock United fans with? As if he fell to earth and happened to land at Old Trafford!
In reality, Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill identified the world class player who would be the difference between us and City and went out there and got him.
Ah, weren’t those were the days?! This summer’s transfer business has been like a tombola where either David Moyes or Ed Woodward has picked a name at random from one drum and then a price tag from another in an attempt to match them up.
I can just imagine Woodward offering £12million for Leighon Baines in July before being told No. One month later, we make another offer…how about £12million? No wonder Everton were insulted. Even Arsenal seem capable of adding £1 on to offers!
Anyway, I digress. Even without the midfield signings we are crying out for, there is little need for utter despair at Old Trafford. We still have the best player in the Premier League and we have a squad that cantered to the title last season and has another year’s experience. If the worst came to the worst, I am sure we could defrost Paul Scholes for a few more games.
On Monday Night Football this week, Gary Neville described Van Persie as a nuisance burglar before suggesting he had Ashley Williams ‘on toast’ earlier that weekend.
The Premier League’s top scorer in the last two seasons, Van Persie was the man who almost single-handedly guided Arsenal into the Champions League and then delivered title number 20 to Old Trafford. Yet, people still grumble at United’s weak squad.
Apparently, United’s squad has got worse since Chelsea appointed Jose Mourinho, and because City bought Jesús Navas, Alvaro Negredo and Fernandinho to replace the tragic purchases of Scott Sinclair and Jack Rodwell and the misguided Mario Balotelli.
Realistically, the reigning champions are as strong as last season when we strolled over the line.
Despite the lack of an iconic number seven and despite a stumbling, bumbling transfer window, United are in good shape. The business conducted last August saw to that.
In Van Persie, we still have the Premier League’s leading light, we still have a talisman, a craftsman and a maverick.
In our number 20, we still have a best player and, although not in number, we still have the man. Robin Van Persie – United’s false seven.
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