Van Persie’s sale ended up being an Arsenal win.
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With reports that Robin van Persie looks set to leave Manchester United for Fenerbahce this summer in today’s Guardian, it seems a good time to reflect on the career of the Dutchman in the Premier League.
Joining as a relatively unknown youngster all the way back in 2004, Van Persie started out as a clear talent with plenty of potential, but one who ultimately suffered a long run of one injury after another to persistently halt his progress. The former Feyenoord man only won one trophy in his Gunners career, the FA Cup final win over Man United in 2005 which included a successful penalty in the shoot-out, but one has to wonder how much more the north London giants would have won had he stayed fit more.
Finally, Van Persie decided enough was enough and made the decision to quit the club in the summer of 2012. Having just fired Arsenal to third in the Premier League, scoring 30 league goals to win the Golden Boot along the way, he made the hugely controversial move to rivals United for an initial fee of £22.5m, which will have risen to £24m after the Red Devils won the title the following season, according to claims by BBC Sport at the time.
This looked a slightly risky buy at the time, but United fans will undoubtedly feel it was worth it. In they end, although they clearly only got one good season out of him, that swagger up front and that ferocious left foot proved the big difference as Sir Alex Ferguson’s side took the title off rivals Manchester City in 2012/13 to send their legendary manager off on a merry retirement.
Still, this kind of short-termist thinking may really cost United in the long run, with a big fee paid out for a player who has been largely poor since that excellent debut season. Scoring 30 goals in all competitions in 2012/13, Van Persie only managed a further 28 in the following two campaigns, with United now in major need of a rebuilding process in attack as it looks like both he and Radamel Falcao will end up leaving in the same summer.
Far from having a player who could help make it a smooth transition into a new era after Ferguson’s retirement, United only signed a player designed to make sure Fergie’s final season was a success, and although £24m may not be a lot for a club of their size, that doesn’t look like good business.
Arsenal, meanwhile, will be happy to have taken the cash and spent it on players like Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud, who both joined that same summer that RVP left, and who both went on to provide the team with the silverware it craved; Cazorla scored against Hull City in the 2014 FA Cup final and was Man of the Match against Aston Villa the following year, a match in which Giroud was also on the scoresheet.
Although painful at the time for fans of Arsene Wenger’s side, they perhaps now see the long-term vision the Frenchman had for the club, and appreciate that paying off the debt from building their new stadium has now seen them become a force in the market once again. Perhaps the signings of big names like Cazorla, and later Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez would not have been possible as quickly if they hadn’t cashed in so much money on a player just a year away from going into serious decline.
Van Persie had his one hurrah at Old Trafford, but he too may look back with a feeling of regret that he spurned the chance of becoming a true club legend at Arsenal by moving to a rival just as they were on their way down and his old club continue to look like returning to the top.