Following Robin Van Persie's phenomenal start to life at Old Trafford, former United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy has asserted that the club's newest talisman can match his Man United goal tally, saying: "I hope he gets as many as me. That would be a good thing. I had my time. That has gone now and others have taken over. I really hope he does it."
Coming off the back of a stellar season with Arsenal, Van Persie has hit the ground running at United, bagging nine league goals in 14 appearances, with 12 in total so far this season, but at 29 years of age, could he match Van Nistelrooy's impressive tally? talkSPORT compare the two goal-getters.
Van Nistelrooy – 95 goals/150 games – 0.63 goals-per-game
Van Persie – 105 goals/208 games – 0.50 goals-per-game
In the Premier League, Van Nistelrooy's goals to game ratio is streets ahead of Van Persie's combined Arsenal and Manchester United total, but on close inspectio, taking into account their respective ages, this figure changes somewhat.
Van Nistelrooy's Manchester United goals came during a five-year period where the Dutchman was at his peak as a striker. Van Persie, on the other hand, endured a very patchy career early-on at Arsenal, as he played second-fiddle to the likes of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp, having signed as a 21-year-old raw talent.
Much as Arsene Wenger transformed Henry from a winger into a lead striker, so he did with Van Persie, and the Dutchman's move into a more central role brought an increased goal-rate.
From the time Van Persie turned 25 years old (the age Van Nistelrooy was when he joined United), comparisons between the two are more favourable. From this period RVP's goal rate stands at 0.62 goals-per-game, fractionally behind Van Nistelrooy.
Van Nistelrooy – 38 goals/47 games – 0.81 goals-per-game
Van Persie – 23 goals/56 games – 0.41 goals-per-game
While Van Persie certainly has all of the attributes to match Van Nistlerooy's Manchester United goal tally, one area he will have to improve is his European scoring record. Van Nistlerooy's whopping tally places him joint-second in the all-time Champions League scorers list, behind only Raul, while Van Persie's record is way off the pace.
The figures speak for themselves in this respect, with Van Nistelrooy enjoying a ratio almost twice as good as Van Persie's. However, particularly in Europe, the differences in the style of the two players is particularly evident.
As has been seen frequently over the past few seasons, Van Persie's true strengths lay in dropping deeper to get involved in the build up play, before finishing off the move with a goal. This is in complete contrast to Van Nistelrooy, who was a traditional poacher.
Van Nistelrooy – 35 goals/70 games – 0.50 goals-per-game
Van Persie – 31 goals/71 games – 0.44 goals-per-game
Ruud van Nistelrooy's impressive tally places him fourth in the all-time Netherlands goalscorers, while Van Persie sits in eighth.
One criticism of both men, though, is that while they have enjoyed excellent scoring records for their clubs, they have struggled to fully replicate that at international level.
Robin van Persie certainly has all of the attributes to match Ruud van Nistelrooy's incredible record for Manchester United, given time. At 29 years old, however, time is not on Van Persie's side and it will take at least four seasons of high scoring to get close to his countryman. Given his form over the past two seasons, had Van Persie joined Man United earlier, there is no doubt that he would have surpassed Van Nistelrooy's total, but this particular target seems a bridge too far even for a player of Van Persie's immense ability.
All statistics correct up to 30 November 2012
Who do you think is the better striker? Could Robin van Persie surpass Ruud van Nistelrooy's Man United goal tally? Have your say by commenting below...