Why Robin van Persie Could Be The Most Important Signing Since Cantona


By Matthew Jones

ROBIN van Persie is one hell of a signing. It was true when the possibility of getting him actually turned to reality and it’s proving to be true in the very short time he’s been a Manchester United player.

But just how important could he be?

Before the van Persie purchase, I was quietly confident the business we’d done had strengthened us for this season. Acting quickly to get long-time target Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund, a truly exciting attacking talent. While we might not see the true potential of former Crewe Alexandra starlet Nick Powell this season, there were a lot of clubs interested in him and again, we muscled in and got our man. Since the Dutchman’s acquisition, we’ve signed cover for Patrice Evra at left back – it may not be Leighton Baines or a very high profile arrival but from the reports I’ve read, Alexander Büttner shows enthusiasm to get forward, can shoot from distance and puts himself about and he could become a fan favourite at Old Trafford. Angelo Henriquez, like Powell, is very young and raw, but a lot of people at the club seem excited by him, so all our dealings in the transfer market this summer have yielded a mix of excitement and potential.

But the arrival of Robin has blown the transfer window out of the water. It’s made people enjoying their blissful British summer full of Olympic and Paralympic fever sit bolt upright in their deck chairs and realise that the beautiful game was still around and on the way back. While big spending Manchester City and their mercenaries plundered the title from United last season, heaping more fuel on the fire that United’s time as top dogs is up, Van Persie’s arrival demonstrates that we are not a fading force, it’s a signing that the Fergie of old would make, a real statement of intent which we have not been too used to seeing in the Glazer era.

Robin’s been brought in to compliment Wayne Rooney, our Batman, and it promises to be a real superhero partnership.

I think van Persie could be our biggest signing since Rooney himself and up there with the likes of Eric Cantona, Roy Keane and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

It’s been brilliant having him for the two and a bit games that he’s worn the Red Devil red, the only problem with van the Man’s arrival is we’re yet to see him form the truly terrifying partnership with Rooney that all United fans have been dreaming about.

With the injury and fitness troubles plaguing Rooney so far this season, it’s been surreal to have the two superstars operating parallel to each other as opposed to forging a duet set to give Premier League defences nightmares. Of course it’s early doors so there’s plenty of time for them to yet form a terrifying twosome.

Rooney and van Persie’s differing starts to the season could not be more opposite. The fans have instantly welcomed the Dutchman into our hearts, helped of course by his four goals in three games. It’s a stellar signing, one that people thought we could no longer make and an example of what Rooney himself probably envisaged when he questioned the club’s transfer policy and ability to compete during his outburst in October 2010. Stupidly, there are some within Old Trafford that claim Rooney, due to his latest injury and his apparent lack of fitness and form since the end of last season, should be cashed in on by the club. Ridiculous. I have tremendous faith. Faith in Rooney. Faith that he still has the fire to propel United to glory and achieve the same sort of standards and goals tally as last season. I have faith in Sir Alex and his man management ability to get the best out of his star player and see him through this early season, and it is very early in the season, blip.

People have criticised Rooney for seemingly coming back to pre-season overweight. He’s admitted he put on a few more pounds than he expected on his summer trip to the US and, being Rooney, his body type means that he’s always going to look overweight if he’s not completely trim. He’s looked sluggish in pre-season but rather than simply being a few pounds too heavy and looking off the pace, I’m wondering if he’s simply not just burnt out?

Despite his enforced break at the start of the European Championships because of his international ban, he hardly looked refreshed and rested when he came back into the line-up for the final group game against Ukraine, despite scoring the winner, while he was unable to inspire his country to go beyond Italy and the quarter-finals.

Rooney loves to be the focal point of any side he plays in and because of his natural talent and sheer desire, he has been for most of his career, but even for him, last year was quite special. He bagged his biggest ever tally of goals for United (scoring 35 goals, one more than in the 2009/10 season, in 44 games) and due to Fergie’s distrust of Dimitar Berbatov, Javier Hernandez’s stop-start season due to injury, Danny Welbeck’s impressive but still fledging progress, and the retirement of several senior figures, Rooney was at times a one man band.

Many believe that the arrival of van Persie will ease the burden on Rooney and allow him more freedom to let his ability shine. On the other hand, like the Steven Gerrard/Frank Lampard England debate, many say Rooney and RVP will not be able to fit into the same team. My belief is, if you have a top class manager and two top class players in similar positions, the man in charge will be able to get the best out of both players, so with regards to this, I have no worries. One concern I do have is, despite lightening the workload for Rooney, will he be the same player if he’s not playing at full speed for every single game? Rooney thrives on living on the edge, taking the stick from rival fans, being relied on to deliver under the most difficult circumstances, performing at his peak despite being so close to crossing the line into failure, misery and dejection – even if he is running himself into the ground by doing so.

The threat of Manchester City has been steadily growing over the last few years and the epic final day of last season will have given them huge confidence and an unsatiable thirst for more success. Chelsea’s Champions League triumph rescued their season but their alarming domestic form cannot be glossed over but, like City, they have the resources available to them and they have impressively flexed that financial muscle over the summer, which presumably will mean they will be far stronger this year.

With Robin’s arrival, however, I’m sure the smirks will have been wiped off faces. His signing reminds me of when we signed Teddy Sheringham in 1997. Sheringham was 31 at the time. The majority were surprised at the move, some even chastised Ferguson. Yet he enjoyed a fruitful period at Old Trafford, winning three Premier League titles, the FA Cup and Champions League. Hacks and critics can baulk at his age, his injury record and drone on about how he won’t fit in or that Welbeck’s development will stall and Hernandez will be forced out of the club because of it. Most fans of opposing teams or critics will put these arguments forward out of fear or simple hatred for United, but Fergie and United fans know just how exciting a period RVP to United could hail.

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  1. Hopefully van Persie will help our current crop of youngsters just like Cantona did in the mid 90s with our youngsters at the time. Welbeck and Chicha may not play as much but I think they’ll learn a lot as will the likes of Will Keane and Henriquez.

    I was very critical of Rooney before his injury but I don’t agree with those that say he should be sold. We should be keeping our best players aswell as bringing in top players, not selling our best and replacing them with someone who MAY do a better job, same goes for Nani. I look forward to Rooney’s return and hope the additions of van Persie and Kagawa make him up his game a few more notches.

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