Robin van Persie, who injured his knee in Manchester United’s 3-0 victory over Olympiakos on Wednesday, now faces up to six weeks on the sidelines. That means the striker will miss April’s two legged tie with Bayern Munich and, potentially, the remainder of the Premier League season.
The injury to United’s leading scorer couldn’t have come at a worse time. Currently seventh in the Premier League table, the Red Devils are currently three points from the Europa League spots. With almost no hope of qualifying for next season’s Champions League – unless they defy all odds and lift this year’s trophy – David Moyes was counting on a late season run to at least secure a spot in Europe’s second tournament.
The United manager was also hoping, we can assume, that his side could somehow upset reigning champions Bayern in the Champions League quarter-finals. But now he’ll be without van Persie for both legs of the vital tie, making that task seem even more daunting.
Manchester United will also be missing the Dutchman for next week’s midweek clash with Manchester City, who thrashed United 4-1 at the Etihad back in September. The hosts may have been hoping for better success this time around, particularly as Sergio Agüero, who scored twice for the Citizens last time around, is out with injury.
On paper, the rest of United’s run in looks rather gentle. They face West Ham in Saturday’s late match, then Aston Villa come to town on the other side of the game against City. Then it’s Newcastle, Everton, Norwich, Sunderland and Hull before the season wraps up at Southampton. Just one of those sides – Everton – is above United in the table, while Newcastle is the only other side that beat the Red Devils earlier in the season.
If Manchester United beat the six sides that they beat earlier in the year, the Europa League dream could be alive and well. But can they do it without van Persie, who’s already scored 11 league goals this season? And, perhaps more importantly, will they be able to make any impression on Bayern without the man that’s bagged four goals in the Champions League?