“They need a midfielder, not another international class striker.” That was the refrain that dogged the first couple months of Robin van Persie’s time at Old Trafford as game after game went by in which Manchester United struggled to control proceedings.
Then, as the goals started flooding in at the wrong end, “and a defender” was added to the complaint.
Now though, United sit seven points clear at the top of the English Premier League standings and there is no question who has been the catalyst – van Persie.
The Dutchman is the top scorer in the English top flight with 16 goals and only team-mate Wayne Rooney and Chelsea’s Juan Mata have created more assists.
After another stellar performance in a 4-0 win over Wigan, Sir Alex Ferguson called van Persie, “the completely rounded footballer” in his explanation of why his focus in the summer transfer window was on snaring the Dutchman.
“We knew we were getting a top player who would make a difference to the team. That is why we went for him.
“Robin is a completely rounded footballer. 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.
“His ability to make and take goals is fantastic.”
Now Fergie’s focus can turn to finding the creative solution he needs in midfield and a defender who can stand alongside the increasingly frail Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.
Whether these players will be found internally or externally is a whole other issue.
Chris Smalling, Johnny Evans and Phil Johns have had as many good moments as bad ones, but have yet to show they can dominate their area at the highest level.
In midfield all hope currently rests on 23-year-old Tom Cleverley and Red Devils fans must look across to Turin with frustration, where United youth product Paul Pogba has set Serie A alight.
In the meantime the stats say it, the performances say it and the results say it. Robin van Persie has been a sensational signing who may have even covered up United’s flaws better than addressing them would have.
Manchester United and Chelsea have qualified for the European Champions League at the expense of Leicester on a frantic final day of the English Premier League season, while Bournemouth and Watford were relegated to end five-year stays in the top flight.
The ex-Manchester United striker, who had quite a good career for the Red Devils himself and was known for his famous goal against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final, is turning the fortunes of the English giants.
Paul Pogba made an immediate impact on his return from surgery, earning a penalty converted by Bruno Fernandes that earned Manchester United a 1-1 draw at Tottenham in the English Premier League on Saturday morning.