Football

Star Watch

ROBIN VAN PERSIE (Holland)

HIGH-FIVE: Holland’s Robin van Persie celebrating with his coach Louis van Gaal (far right) after scoring.

Robin van Persie was a shadow of himself for his last Manchester United manager David Moyes, but he seems re-energised for his next manager, Louis van Gaal.

A constant threat to Spain, he matched his imperious touch and control with a fighting spirit that helped propel his nation to one of their finest nights in recent years.

You can tell a quality footballer, not by his instinctive reactions, but by what he can do when he has time to think, and time to doubt. For van Persie, there are no doubts.

The lofted first-half pass from the excellent Daley Blind seemed to hang in the sultry night air as if held aloft by invisible string.

Van Persie had time to ghost in to the box and stare at it as it began its descent.

A lesser man would have taken the time to weigh up his options, to ponder the best course of action, to allow fear to creep into his mind. Van Persie simply took up his position and deftly headed the ball home.

And he wasn’t done there. He smashed a shot off the crossbar, he made space for his teammates, he continued to hurt the Spanish, relentlessly and mercilessly.

And then he stole in to humiliate Iker Casillas, snatching the ball from him and slotting it home.

This is a truly special player and, for the first time in a year, he has found truly special form. He and van Gaal make a hell of a team.