In the summer of 2012, it became clear that Robin van Persie was going to leave Arsenal for pastures new. Like a number of players before him, the ‘jam tomorrow’ philosophy of Arsene Wenger had worn a bit thin. The Dutchman had decided that if he wanted to add to his sole FA Cup winners medal and reap the sort of honours that his talents surely warranted, The Emirates was not the place to be. After eight years and 96 goals in 194 games, it was time to move on. The question was, to where?
Chelsea remained locked in a ‘love you unto death’ embrace with the misfiring Fernando Torres, so were to miss out on the opportunity. Both Manchester clubs coveted his signature though, and City had the lure of the Premier League champions tag and the prospect of untold wealth to attract him. United however was the club that van Persie had set his heart on. As he said at the time, "I always listen to the little boy inside of me in these situations – when you have to make the harder decisions in life". What does he want? That boy was screaming for Man United. Reluctantly, but inevitably, Arsenal accepted Ferguson’s cheque and van Persie moved to Old Trafford.
The purchase was seen to be a gamble for United at the time. Here was a striker bordering 29, with a record of injury problems. Sure, he’d probably score goals when played, but how many games would he be fit for. Talk was that it was like buying a second-hand sports car. It still looked good, but the previous owner may have put too many miles on its clock. In typical Ferguson manner however, the United manager was convinced it was a bargain. A player with gold-plated guarantee card for scoring goals in the Premier League at a fraction of the cost lavished on other strikers. Unsurprisingly, the sage of Old Trafford had it right. Whilst City laboured with an injured Aguero and the erratic Ballotelli, Chelsea struggled with a pedestrian Torres, and Arsenal replaced the Dutchman with the underwhelming Giroud, van Persie continued delivering his normal service of goals, netting 19 times for the red devils in 29 games.
As United look set to secure their twentieth title any time soon, the transfer not only looks to be wise, it looks outstanding value – both for the club and player. Whilst United have complimented their strike force to the extent that although they have conceded a number of early leads this season, and on occasions even gone two down, the capacity to score goals and win games means that hardly any lead is safe against them. Witness comebacks form two goals down at Aston Villa and Southampton for example. For van Persie, ion his first season at Old Trafford, he’s about to collect his first medal that will trump all that he earned in his tenure with the gunners, with surely a good deal more to follow.
It’s a harsh lesson for Manchester United’s contenders in the Premier League. Every team needs a consistent goal scorer, but big price tags don’t guarantee success. Only outstanding ability can do that. Good decisions bring the right results, and normally, Fergie gets it right. Certainly in this case, although the £22million tag looked a gamble, the van man has delivered.