Robin van Persie gave the best years of his career to Arsenal, his boyhood club, but even when he was the Premier League’s top scorer, winner of the PFA and Football Writer of the Year awards, he had no medal to show for it.
The only trophy he won in his time with the North London club was the FA Cup at the end of his first season when he came on as a sub when United were robbed at Cardiff. Van Persie was just 21-years-old then and probably expected this medal to be the first of many but, after spending a further seven seasons at the club, won nothing else.
As a 29-year-old and with just one year remaining on his contract, Van Persie knew that it was time to leave. He didn’t have many years of his career remaining and couldn’t take the risk of never winning the title. Manchester United, Manchester City and Juventus were the clubs interested in signing him and thankfully for us, the Dutchman had his heart set on a move to United.
When asked why he chose United over rivals City, who undoubtedly would have paid him a larger salary, Van Persie claimed it was an easy decision.
“It is always quite difficult to find a perfect match but I do feel that this is perfect for me,” he said. “Manchester United breathe football and if you look at all the players, the stadium and the manager, my choice was made very soon in my mind if you were basing it on those two clubs. 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.”
So that was that, Van Persie was a United player, and started the season wearing the ’20’ shirt. “I took the No.20 shirt because I’m here to win a 20th title with United,” he explained.
Van Persie won the title at the end of his first season and yet again was the league’s top scorer. He contributed massively to our success as United cruised to their 20th title.
Along the way, he played against his former club twice and scored in both games. The first came at Old Trafford and put United 1-0 up in the third minute. The second came on his return to the Emirates, as a champion, and he was given a guard of honour by his former team mates when he walked out on to the pitch. After Arsenal took the lead, Sagna brought Van Persie down in the box just before half-time and the Dutchman calmly dispatched the resulting penalty.
For both goals, Van Persie refused to celebrate, showing respect for the fans of his former club. Being honest, I’m not a massive fan of the non-celebration. Whilst honouring your former fans you are doing your current ones a disservice by showing no emotion.
Still, a player’s decision to celebrate or not should be dictated by their relationship with the fans of their previous club. For example, I would fully expect Carlos Tevez to celebrate a goal against us, as much as it would piss me off, but I would be surprised if Cristiano Ronaldo did.
In the three games Van Persie has played against Arsenal since joining United they’ve booed his every touch and sung about him being a cunt/rapist all game. In his first season as a United player he still was courteous towards them, holding his hands up with an expressionless face, but in today’s game he celebrated properly. It was a huge goal for us, which sealed three points against the league leaders, and it’s no surprise he was happy about scoring.
When I got in to the car after the game the big debate on one of the football call ins was questioning whether Van Persie was in the wrong for celebrating.
Even if you are of the opinion that players shouldn’t celebrate against their former club, there surely can’t be any denying that the player is fully entitled to when on the receiving end of the bile Van Persie is from Arsenal fans. That’s not a criticism of them either. I completely understand why they hate him and take no issue with them giving him shit. But if they are going to give him shit, they should be prepared for him to celebrate like any other United player would after scoring against them.
That’s three goals in three games against his former club now. Not sure whether Arsene Wenger should refer to Van Persie as an “Arsenal man” anymore.