IT’S been four years since a Liverpool trip to Old Trafford pitched the Premier League’s top two in opposition (Second-placed Liverpool won 4-1, for the record).
But while the Reds’ star has slipped since the 2008/09 campaign, there’s one area where the clubs are still neck and neck.
Robin van Persie is the Premier League’s leading scorer with 16 goals in his 21 appearances. Luis Suarez is just one goal behind with one appearance fewer.
And with the forms set to be sent out soon for the PFA’s Player of the Year award the two leading candidates will surely be the two North-West strikers.
Former Reds boss Kenny Dalglish – who won the PFA prize in 1983 – has no doubt which player he rates better.
“All I would say about Luis is that he has probably been the league’s outstanding player this season,” he wrote in his Sunday newspaper column.
“He has been superb in his role and when people are talking about players of the season, at this stage you wouldn't look further than Luis and Robin van Persie.
“At the moment, I think Luis is edging it. He is more important to Liverpool than van Persie is to United.”
Dalglish, of course, would say that, wouldn’t he?
But what do the cold clinical stats say?
We turned to the exhaustive EPL Index to analyse each player’s performances in 2012/13 in depth – and asked who is really the best, Luis Suarez or Robin Van Persie?
Defending? Defending? Aren’t we analysing the Premier League’s top best strikers?
True, but the greatest goalscorer in Liverpool’s entire history was also celebrated for being Liverpool’s first line of defence, such was Ian Rush’s willingness to chase down and harry defenders.
And defensively Suarez comes out on top.
The Uruguayan has made 18 tackles to van Persie’s 14 and the same number of interceptions as the Dutchman, six – but his number of 50-50 challenges entered into dwarves van Persie’s – 307 to 122.
Suarez loses possession far more than van Persie, dispossessed 53 times to 37, but that an be explained by the stark contrast in playing styles.
Suarez has attempted a mammoth 165 dribbles this season, 64 of them successful, while van Persie has tried just 21, 17 successful.
You’d prefer your strikers to be on the receiving end of passes rather than making them – but it’s a team game and Suarez is very much a team player.
The South American has made 724 passes in open play to van Persie’s 601, although van Persie’s pass completion ratio is better – 81% to 76% – although Suarez’s pass completion rate improves the further up the pitch he is, with an attacking zone pass completion rate of 73% to 67% for Old Trafford’s marksman and 311 accurate final third passes to 231.
Van Persie is credited with six assists to Suarez’s three according to the EPL Index, but you know what they say about lies, damned lies . . and then statistics?
Suarez passed for Sahin’s goal at Norwich, Sterling’s versus Reading and Sunderland, was fouled for Steven Gerrard’s penalty at Stoke and surely has to be credited with an assist for his cross-shot which cannoned off Leighton Baines in the derby.
And Suarez has created 50 chances from open play, compared with just 22 from van Persie.
While the Liverpool striker frequently runs at defences from deep positions, van Persie prefers to get wide and fire crosses into opposition penalty areas.
The Manchester United man has crossed more – 21 accurate crosses to Suarez’s 12 – while van Persie has attempted 99 crosses to just 33 from Suarez.
Suarez’s crossing accuracy is also greater than van Persie’s – 36% to 21% and the Liverpool man has carved out 10 clearcut chances for his team-mates this season, compared to nine from van Persie.
The strikers’ bread and butter, all forward players’ raison d’etre – and both have been outstanding this season.
It used to be thought that Suarez needed too many chances for his goals.
That’s changed this season.
Suarez has converted exactly half of his clear-cut chances – 11 scored 11 missed.
That is better than van Persie, whose 39 per cent conversion comes from nine scored and 14 missed.
But while Liverpool fans need to wait only 120 minutes for every Luis Suarez strike, van Persie is even better with a goal every 104 minutes.
Van Persie’s shooting accuracy is 51% to Suarez’s 46%, but Suarez peppers opposition goals with more efforts.
He has fired off 92 shots this season, to van Persie’s 63.
With Suarez firing a shot on goal every 20 minutes and van Persie one every 26 – we should see around eight efforts at goal from the North West giants’ two world class hit men on Sunday.
Will that decide who’s the best?
Just sit back and enjoy two master craftsmen at the top of their game.
Suarez van Persie
15 Goals 16
119.8 Minutes per goal 104.13
10 Clear-cut chances created 9
50% Clear-cut chance conversion 39%
123 Shots (including blocked) 74
42 Shots on target 32
46% Shooting Accuracy 51%