It felt too good to be true when reports first linked us with a move to Robin van Persie. There was surely no way that Arsenal would let the PFA and FWA Player of the Year, and current Golden Boot holder leave to join Manchester United. But they did, with him picking the Reds of the Blues in Manchester, and he provided the goals we needed to win the league in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final year.
Speaking to the official United podcast, Van Persie has spoken about the move to United and how his choice of words and his unveiling rubbed Arsenal fans up the wrong way.
Maybe I could have chosen different words. What I meant to say, from my point of view, was [about] when you have to make a difficult decision – and it was a very difficult decision if you add up everything because the last few months were very difficult for me and my family as well at home.
At one point, I told Shaqueel, who was a fan of Wayne Rooney, I said: ‘Do you like the idea of me playing together with Rooney?’ He said: ‘Yeah, is he coming to Arsenal?’.
I said: ‘No, no, no. We are going there.’
He said: ‘But that’s far away, a different city.’ He was quite young then and said: ‘I have friends at school and I am happy here.” So he was not too happy about it, he was not too keen.
With kids, after three or four days in Manchester, they had new friends and are going so fast. They were really happy in Manchester. A lot of people told me, friends in London, they asked why was I going to live in Manchester? ‘It’ll be difficult’, they said, ‘it’s really that bad and always raining’ – the classic story about Manchester.
I said: ‘Okay, but I want to make the move. I’m doing it.’
We had one of the best years in Manchester, Bouchra and the kids. They were so happy there. Bouchra was very happy there. London is a beautiful city but, to compare London and Manchester, in London, most people are in a rush.
Even with a little chat, they are always in a rush and busy working. In Manchester, I noticed a lot of people, they just had more time and can have a chat; shall we go for lunch? Shall we do this? Shall we do that? It was a different lifestyle and, when you have a family, it is the perfect place to be.
Van Persie had waited his entire career to win the Premier League but Arsenal always fell short. The Dutchman has hailed the team spirit in the United squad to one of the contributing factors to his success and how every member of the squad knew they had an important role to play.
In my first year that was very, very good. Maybe the best I have ever season. Rio, had one of his bans so he wasn’t allowed to drive so I was his taxi driver for about six months because we used to live next to each other. What tells you about the spirit of the team as well, every single drive, he was going on about football, going on about winning. How we going to beat the next team, about the team process. Who is doing well, who needs help? We were always asking questions. It was always about eventually winning. We had to find ways to help each other, to trigger each other, to win.
Off the pitch, if stuff like that is happening. It is like 27 players, everyone has loads of money, everyone thinks he is the best player. But everyone was at ease. Everyone was at ease with his place in team. Everyone accepted it as well. When you realise that as a team, as a coach, as players then you are always competing for a trophy. Because that is the most difficult thing to actually happen in a team that everyone is on the same page and everyone breathes football and everyone talks about it. Just about one goal – winning together.
You could see with Chicharito for example, he wasn’t a first XI player in that year. But he made a big impact. Every single training session he gave more than 100%. He was always there. He was always with Vida, always competing for every ball. When he came on or when he started he was always making a difference.
If you have those kind of players, in that position, behaving and playing so well, that is one of the differences as well to be champions in the end because you can’t do it with 11 players, you need everyone. Every single player really counts and I think every player gave each other that feeling. Listen, if you are the number 1 or number 27, everyone counts as much.