While every title winning team will owe that little extra something to one, stardust-sprinkled performer, there’s been something remarkably poignant about the exceptional quality that Robin van Persie has brought to Manchester United’s 20th league championship.
You could take your pick from the abundance of visual cues that seemingly epitomised the Dutchman’s debut season at Old Trafford during the crowning 3-0 win against Aston Villa last night.
Be it the brilliance in execution for his second goal, the unerring efficiency of his other two or even something as simple as the number on the back of his shirt – while hindsight might well make the following appear somewhat painfully obvious, van Persie’s move to United has just simply felt right.
Yet it’s worth noting that at the start of union between van Persie and United back in the August of 2012, far from being a dubbed a move exempt from possible failure, the 29-year-old’s switch up north raised some real eyebrows in some quarters.
Although in an evening that showcased a cascade of breathless attacking play and scenes of footballing joy relatable only to those who have tasted the champagne of a championship victory, both club and player have been vindicated in the sweetest way possible.
Certainly, while it’s easy to now rub the doubters’ noses in it after the Dutchman has fired in a stunning 24 Premier League goals, it’s worth mentioning that those criticising United’s decision to plough an eye-watering £24million into a deal for a player only 12 months short of his 30th birthday, were hardly basing their doubts upon anything out of the unfounded; in contrast, you could say the doubters were merely adhering to base logic of the transfer market.
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Van Persie’s advancing years did of course render him as something of a rapidly depreciating asset in purely monetary terms and regardless of how well he continues to do at the club during the remaining three years of his contract, the club will be lucky to recoup even a fraction of their initial fee.
With the club already possessing Wayne Rooney – who himself had just come off a spectacular 34 goal season- alongside Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck in attack and Shinji Kagawa’s arrival set to renege the need for two out and out hit men in the side, van Persie’s arrival was also mooted as something of a luxury, the club could potentially do without. Especially so with the need for a long-awaited replacement to Paul Scholes still yet to be found in the red half of Manchester.
But it was within the critique aimed at the player on a personal level, that felt far more harder to quantify than that of the club’s decision to take – and we use term extremely loosely indeed – a ‘gamble’ upon van Persie’s signature.
The outpouring of angst from Arsenal supporters following the Dutchman’s exit was of course wholly understandable, but far from the usual supporter-fuelled malaise for the departure of one of their best players, there was a school of thought suggesting that van Persie may have even made the wrong sporting decision.
Why become just another player in the Old Trafford machine when you can try and help build something special with the club that helped moulded you into the player you are today? That was the musings of some prior to his August exit and perhaps to some extent, they held a small weight of gravitas, too.
Would a title win with the Gunners have surpassed the value of achieving one with a team that was arguably already capable of winning one without his skillset? Maybe so. But history doesn’t have a particularly fond memory for the nearly-men in this game and for all his outstanding goalscoring prowess, van Persie’s legacy in the game on these shores looked desperately meek before last night’s title win.
But it was within those scenes that we witnessed last night that perhaps need little in the way of an explanation as to why his move away to Old Trafford was an unmitigated must for both club and player.
For a player of van Persie’s quality, success isn’t measured just upon how many screamers you score or how many individual accolades you win – it’s measured on trophies, championships and going the distance in the league. As cruel a jibe as it may seem to Arsene Wenger’s men, van Persie could have gone on to score 100 goals over the next three seasons for the Gunners, but no amount of personal glory can serve as a substitute for a league victory.
From the club’s perspective, the formula was simple. Although van Persie’s injury record ensured the move wasn’t a transfer quite as free of risk as some have suggested, the Dutchman has paid for himself by helping his side attain the Premier League title. And given the aforementioned hunger he brought with him for trophies to Old Trafford, perhaps it’s been the mindset of a footballer hell-bent on attaining success that’s made just as much difference as that absolute wand of a left-foot has.
Some will suggest there is a flawed logic in championing one of the best teams in the land going out and snapping up the best player within the league, as something of a masterstroke.
Yet given his age and injury-record, this was one transfer that wasn’t universally accepted as a banker for success by any stretch of the imagination. Judging by the way van Persie has at times single-handedly dragged his new side towards Premier League glory, however, you get the impression that the Dutchman was one man who never bore a shred of doubt about the profitability of his move. And what a move it’s been.
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