On Wednesday night I was writing something for Red News about the pros and cons of signing Robin van Persie. With the deal having not been done, but the conclusion likely to have been reached by the time the issue went to print, it was important that a fair summary was given.
I had come up with several reasons why the transfer wouldn’t be ideal for United (and I will address these later) but my reaction last night to learning that we had agreed a fee with Arsenal gave away my true feelings about the situation. Like most reds, I was over the moon. Signing big players like van Persie is something United rarely do. Whilst we’ve paid big money for players in the past, like the £29.1m for a 24-year-old Rio Ferdinand and the £27m for an 18-year-old Wayne Rooney, we were paying for the potential after the bright starts to their careers. I was so excited when we bought Andy Cole, absolutely made up when we signed Juan Sebastian Veron, but pre-Glazer as much as post-2005, United rarely sign players of the calibre of van Persie. United now have the top two scorers from last season playing for us. That is huge.
But we do still need to address the less than positive aspects of this signing. The fee being reported is £24m which, quite frankly, is too much for a 29-year-old player in the last year of their contract. This price hasn’t been confirmed by either club and is way above the figures that had been quoted previously, but let’s just presume, for the sake of argument, that this is what we’ve paid. Of course the Dutchman is quality, but it’s incredible that United would have been held to ransom for that much. If he’s cost us £24m, we’ve overpaid, unless included in that figure are the add-ons based upon the success he has with the club. However, when you consider that United were apparently prepared to pay £30m for a Brazilian teenager, totally untested in England, who couldn’t even make the starting XI of their Olympic squad, I’m definitely happier to see the money go on van Persie. Let’s not forget that Kleberson was a starter for Brazil when they won the World Cup, assisting a goal in the final, yet had very little to offer us, so the idea of forking out the reported sum for Lucas Moura didn’t sit well with me at all. Last season’s top scorer is definitely a safer bet.
Another issue is how injury prone van Persie has been throughout his career, only managing more than 28 league games once in his career, which is a fairly poor record. Of course, in the season when he managed this he scored 30 goals in 38 league games and a total of 37 goals in 48 games in all competitions. However, even with not so many appearances to his name, his goal and assist tally is high. Basically, when he plays, he scores and assists a lot.
With Javier Hernandez, who scored 20 goals in his first season in England, and Danny Welbeck, who is already scoring big goals against big teams, waiting in the wings, it’s not as if we will be relying on van Persie to play every game anyway.
This brings us to another negative, which is our two young strikers will obviously move further down the pecking order, particularly with the addition of Shinji Kagawa too. Chicharito was brilliant in his first season, pushing Premier League top scorer Dimitar Berbatov out of the starting team, but was unlucky with injuries in his second second. Welbeck had his first season in our first team after returning from loan at Sunderland and scored against City, Arsenal, Spurs and Everton. Still only 21-years-old, Welbeck was starting for England this summer and scored a late winner against Sweden in the group stages. Van Persie’s arrival certainly means less playing time for these two lads and nobody can be happy about that.
However, before van Persie’s signing was announced, an interview with Chicharito was published on the club’s website.
“I think having that competition in the team can be good, to keep fighting for that place will make you and the other players play at their best,” he said. “It’s normal for a footballer, so I’m going to be ready whenever the gaffer wants me to play. If it’s one minute or 90 minutes, I want to do my best to help the team win titles.”
Our youngsters have the right attitude and maybe competing with the likes of van Persie and Rooney will inspire them to do even better. I certainly don’t think it will harm Rooney knowing that his place is under more pressure either. However, I do worry that being part of a squad that contains talent like Rooney and van Persie has come too soon in the careers for Chicharito and Welbeck, who have still yet to peak and totally prove themselves, and need as many minutes on the field as possible.
The final drawback is the fact everyone can see that United are crying out for a player to boss our midfield, so if we can afford top wages and a decent transfer fee, why haven’t we made an effort to lure Luka Modric or Javi Martinez? With the options we have available to us up front, van Persie is definitely a luxury signing. Whilst I don’t begrudge the club taking the opportunity to sign someone of van Persie’s quality, it certainly makes our lack of interest in any central midfielders all the more puzzling.
However, when all is said and done, we’ve just signed last season’s top scorer and someone who is truly world class. For all the negatives, and there are negatives, I can’t get my head around how there could be any red who isn’t happy about this deal. He’s not the perfect signing but he is the most exciting for a long time and ensures we arguably have the best set of strikers in the club’s history. Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham are always held up as the perfect example for United’s strikeforce, but how can you argue with Rooney, van Persie, Chicharito and Welbeck? Last season, these four players scored 96 goals in 168 games, and whilst we can’t predict the future, the potential of our squad with these players in it is huge.
Van Persie travels to Manchester today for his medical and to agree personal terms, which you assume have already been agreed considering both clubs have announced the deal on their website. All we have to hope for now is that it all runs smoothly… and our fans don’t adopt that awful “he scores when he wants” chant when he’s putting the goals away in our shirt!