On Saturday's Match of the Day, Liverpool legend Alan Hansen and Robbie Savage (sorry Robbo) burst into argument regarding who is the better partnership: Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez (SAS) or Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie. To answer this you would have to look at the following factors: current form, long term form, general ability and how well their partnerships mesh together.
On the first criteria Liverpool's striking duo win hands down. Since the start of the season SAS have been in fantastic form, scoring in every single match apart from the Southampton defeat and have generally scored some eye-catching goals: Suarez's hat-trick against West Brom; Sturridge's lob against West Brom, thunderous opener against Crystal Palace, jinking run against Villa and his blast against Stoke all stand out.
On the other hand, the strike-force of United's has made a subdued start to the season. Whilst Rooney has made a great start, often jump-starting United into gear as they splutter along, Van Persie has meandered - though testament to his quality he has five goals.
There will be very staunch supporters of Rooney and Van Persie who will say it is impossible to compare the current form of SAS with Rooney and Van Persie as Man Utd have been poor as a team, that it is impossible for a team to become a two man team - well what do you think SAS have been doing?
Contrary to the example in the previous paragraph, the two partnerships could not be more comparable: United are weak in the middle, Liverpool are weak in the middle; United leaks goals, Liverpool leak goals; United rely, nay need Rooney and Van Persie to play well otherwise they will draw/lose; Liverpool need SAS to play well otherwise they will draw/lose.
SAS 1-0 Rooney and Van Persie
How much of this is true? For starters I have a hard time accepting Rooney as a world class performer. Throughout his career he has blown as often hot as he has cold and when it has truly mattered he has disappeared for club and country. Club wise he has only scored more than 20 times in the Premier League twice (four times in all competitions) - last season he only found the net 12 times as it was left up to Van Persie to single-handedly secure United the title.
In the 06/07, 07/08 and 08/09 seasons, you could very much argue United won the league in spite of Rooney, as opposed to him being a pivotal player - those of you with long memories will remember Rooney was shunted onto the left wing to accommodate Cristiano Ronaldo's blossoming. Finally in the 10/11 season, while Rooney was busy playing City and United to gain a more lucrative contract, Berbatov was busy winning the golden boot that enabled United to win the league that year - Berbatov scored 20, Rooney 11.
Again, the staunchest of defenders will note Rooney is a creator as well and that makes up for his poor scoring tally. Unfortunately this is only a half truth. Whilst he is quite unselfish and and adept at creating, you cannot compare him to someone like Bergkamp who scored just as infrequently as Rooney, but creatively was on other level.
Now that the myth around Rooney has been debunked, Sturridge stands quite favourably. Yes, Sturridge has yet to score 15 goals in a league campaign, yet alone 20, but this is down to circumstances rather than inconsistency. At City and Chelsea he was never trusted and he only had half seasons at Bolton and Liverpool - yet despite a lack of playing time, he has always managed to score just under a goal a game: on loan at Bolton he scored 8 in 12; when he returned to Chelsea, despite playing on the right wing he had 10 goals by December - of course after Andre Villas Boas was sacked in favour of Di Matteo, Sturridge was dropped and only scored one more that season. Finally, last season he nabbed 10 in 14 for Liverpool and this season 8 in 9.
Now it is fairly evident Sturridge is the better finisher, but just as finishing is an auxiliary to Rooney, I believe the same can said of Sturridge when it comes to creating. Already he has dribbled past a few players to lay it on a plate for Suarez this season - most noticeably against Sunderland - which prompted Brendan Rodgers to call him a "nine and a half" (finishing of a number 9/poacher and guile of a number 10/playmaker).
Neither Sturridge's or Rooney's primary skill (finishing for Sturridge and creating for Rooney) is strong enough to label them world class, they are close enough in stature to rate them both as equals - Van Persie and Suarez do not have this problem - for me they are both world class but they are not equals; the better player is Suarez.
First of all we need to debunk the myth that Van Persie has been world class for a longer duration than Suarez, or rather that Suarez has only done it for one year. Last season may have been the only time Suarez had scored 20+ goals in major league (Suarez scored 35 in 33 for Ajax but Afonso Alves had 34 in 31), but before coming to Liverpool he was a major component of Uruguay's 2011 Copa America victory. During the tournament he scored 4 goals - one behind golden boot winner Paolo Guerrero - and Suarez was noted as the player of the tournament.
Further exploits for Uruguay include netting two in the 2010 World Cup and being top goal scorer in the qualification for World Cup 2014 - these goals have enabled him to become Uruguay's top goal scorer ever at the tender age of 26 with 38 in 71.
Of course Van Persie also became the top goal scorer for Holland with his 41st in 78th appearance, but I would argue this pales in significance to Suarez's tally. Scoring in South America is harder due to the differences in latitude, climate and variations of play. Ask Messi and co as a full strength Argentine side lost 6-1 to Bolivia in a World Cup qualifier - you will not nay - have not seen this happen in Europe, but in South America it happens every now and again.
With this in mind the score is: SAS 2-1 Rooney and Van Persie; Rooney and Van Persie get one for showing greater consistency (albeit under acrimonious circumstances) and SAS get one for being better players.
Finally, the last barometer to judge which partnership is best is how well they work in tandem with each other. Starting with Rooney and Van Persie, they are the atypical striker partnership; a number 10 (Rooney) and a number 9 (Van Persie). Rooney often drops deep to link the midfield to the attack, using his long range of passing to quickly transition play to others within a radius. His performance against Aston Villa last season is the best example of this:
There is a lack of variance to their game and as such it is easy to pinpoint their weaknesses. When their partnership has been cut off you will often see Rooney drop deeper and deeper and start spraying 'hollywood' passes to the wing in desperation rather than choice. As you can see Rooney averages 5.1 long balls per game and the fact he is forced to use this method so such is the blame for such a poor passing accuracy.
Liverpool's SAS combination is less predictable and is often capable of conjuring up 'magic' without outside help. Whether it is Sturridge jetting past players to cross for Suarez:
This means as the clips showed, whether one is short and the other is long, or one is wide and the other central, they will always be nuisance and find one another.
SAS 3-1 Rooney and Van Persie
*All statistics that have a screenshot are courtesy of WhoScored