By Nathan Thomas.
It was a mooted transfer that could scarcely be believed until it was set in stone on the 17th August as Robin van Persie passed a medical which saw the Dutchman seal a shock move to Manchester United. The former Arsenal striker, the nemesis of United and many others, comes at a cost of £22.5 million with the addition of £1.5 million to be added if United win the Premier League or Champions League within the next two years. It is a deal that goes against Ferguson’s recent grain of paying hefty sums for young players alone; however, this is no panic buy.
Van Persie’s arrival at Old Trafford signals a real injection of world-class talent into an already impressive ensemble. Despite the posturing potential of both Hernandez and Welbeck, the opportunity to steal ‘RvP’ from under the nose of Ferguson’s great rival Arsene Wenger proved too good an opportunity to pass up. If reports are to be believed it was Ferguson’s own intervention that swung the deal in United’s favour; determined that this particular saga was not going to mirror that of Samir Nasri (who Ferguson believed would have signed for United were it not for a lucrative eleventh hour offer from Manchester City that turned the Frenchmen’s head).
Even so, prior to the deal being announced many United fans carried more than your average dose of scepticism. Having recently seen talented Brazilian winger Lucas Moura opt for Parisian grandeur over Manchester grit, and in doing so joining the ever-growing list of players who United have missed out on, a drove of pessimism had taken hold.
Not only did some fans believe the move would never happen, but that we should have been investing our efforts to replenish other areas – namely midfield. The further dithering over the Dutchman’s valuation only added fuel to the proverbial fire, as this transfer saga bore many hallmarks of previous ones – many also predicted a similar, disappointing conclusion. As it was, Ferguson was determined to get his man and he once again showed his savvy ability to broker a deal.
When the news was announced on Wednesday evening that a deal had been agreed for the transfer of van Persie (subject to agreeing personal terms and undergoing a medical) it was welcomed by the vast majority of United fans. The purchase of a man who scored 44 goals in 57 games for club and country last season, including two against United, was bound to be popular; but it did not paper over the concerns that some still hold as to perceived investment needed elsewhere.
On the face of it, their angst is not unfounded. I would attest myself that the midfield still needs addressing in particular areas, and cover/competition for Evra would also be a big boost. But I digress, that debate is for another day; this day we should celebrate the fact that the signing of van Persie could be a pivotal factor both at home and on the continent. Given the fine margins that separated United and eventual league winners City in 2011/12, it is clear that had United possessed a striker in the mould of van Persie last season, then the league would surely still be housed in the Old Trafford museum.
Van Persie’s composure in front of goal, his ruthlessness and his multifarious attacking ability will benefit not only the United of now, but that of the future. The aforementioned Welbeck and Hernandez will also surely benefit from playing with a striker with the experience of van Persie. Both of these young protégés have already impacted on the United first team fold, particularly Hernandez, who was superb in his first season and instrumental in hauling United to a record nineteenth title. However, the two still have room to grow and the better calibre of player that they are training with the better for their development. Van Persie also brings with him an enviable assist record. With 33 assists in the last four years, more than any other Premier League play, ensures that a more creative edge is added to our quadruple (or, if you care to include Berbatov, quintuple) of strikers. Rooney is of course not naturally a poacher, but he is more the conductor of the orchestra rather than one who would play that cutting pass – van Persie will add this.
Ferguson’s somewhat surprising decision to splash out on a player of van Persie’s age does of course bring with it some potential risks. The standout being the Dutchman’s injury record. Described as ‘an invisible man’ at times during his first few seasons at Arsenal, van Persie is no stranger to the treatment table. This is not to suggest that he is in the same league as the messrs Hargreaves and Owen, but his time at Arsenal does not represent an impeccable fitness record. Still, solace can be taken from the fact that van Persie’s final two seasons at the Emirates were largely injury free and proved to be the most successful of his career. He established himself as one of the world’s most deadly finishers and I would be mightily surprised if a player of his quality was not to make his mark at Old Trafford.
On one final note, I would like to address the reaction that the majority of Arsenal fans expressed, upon hearing of the deal. It was without question that they are bound to be angry, losing their best player is becoming an annual foray, however this year must be particularly difficult to stomach given the destination of their once beloved ‘RvP’. Still, it amused me to see Arsenal fans categorising van Persie alongside the likes of Ashley Cole and Samir Nasri in the league of mercantilists. It has been widely reported that van Persie will double his wages by taking the trip up north, but for a set of fans who chastised their own manager relentlessly last season and rallied behind their captain, it appears that their better judgement has been clouded by bitterness. It seems rather dismissive that Arsenal fans deem that van Persie’s move was a purely financial one, conveniently forgetting that they have failed to win any silverware for the past seven years. In addition, last summer saw the departure of their two best midfielders with, most significantly, like for like replacements failing to materialise. Van Persie is in the prime of his career and in terms of medals has scant little to show for it. Even with the purchase of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud can he honestly say to himself that Arsenal will be challenging for the biggest honours over the next few seasons, I doubt it.
As for Arsenal, £22 million plus a potential add on is good business, as long as it is invested wisely. Wenger’s pussy footing around cannot afford to continue if they are to challenge this year and it goes without saying that Arsenal fans will be demanding new blood to partner the likes of Podolski, who could most certainly do well in the Premier League. £22 million is an excellent fee for a player creeping toward his thirties, particularly when you consider that he was bought for the meagre sum of £2.75 million back in the summer of 2004. Still, as one United fan on twitter so succinctly put: fans do not go to watch a bank balance sheet, they go to watch world-class players.
In truth, I could not care less about what Arsenal do with the money. I hope that Wenger continues his incessant indecisiveness and that the money is not invested wisely. I really could not care either way. All that I care about is that United now have another superb attacking outlet on their books, it is a move that sends out as strong a message as possible that United are ready for the present, aswell as the future.
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