“It is a very big surprise that Robin van Persie has been allowed to go to Turkey.
Those are the words of van Persie’s former manager Arsene Wenger, who believes that the English game is losing one of the best and there is definitely a case to say the Frenchman is right.
Van Persie completed his move to Fenerbache last week. However, Sir Alex Ferguson’s glowing assessment of van Persie’s first season in Manchester seems like an awfully long time ago now.
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Ferguson exclaimed that van Persie’s superb hat-trick and volley against Villa from Wayne Rooney’s raking fifty yard pass was the “goal of the century.”
It was eight months earlier of course, where Ferguson was the driving force behind the deal to take van Persie from Arsenal for £24m, the former United boss was confident that the Dutch striker would be the man to help wrestle the title back from rivals Manchester City.
Having scored 37 goals in 48 games for the Gunners the previous season, the numbers where there to back up Ferguson’s view and he was of course proved right as he smashed 26 league goals and topped the goal scoring charts after a fantastic debut season, where he helped United win their 20th Premier League title.
But in his second season his fortunes declined dramatically. Injuries, loss of form and perhaps even more importantly, the shock retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, clearly hurt the Dutchman.
Something former United play Rio Ferdinand confirmed saying to MUTV: “The person it hit more than anyone was Robin.”
His form dropped as the injuries that have blighted so much of his career returned and van Persie’s return of 18 goals, although still decent, was well short of the 30 goals in all competitions he achieved in his first season.
Van Persie was a shadow of the player United fans enjoyed so much in his first season, and he struggled under the management of Moyes. It was thought by many that the arrival of his national team manager Louis van Gaal – the manager where he enjoyed a great World Cup under, scoring four goals, including that wonderful header against Spain – would get the best out of the former Gunners striker.
But the Dutchman’s decline did not show any sign of stopping, as he continued to struggle. And his fellow countryman gave him no special treatment as he slipped down the Old Trafford pecking order as a result.
Last year he endured his worst season in a decade, scoring just 10 goals for United. However, despite his dramatic decline and so much time spent injured, van Persie does deserve to be remembered as one of the best ever Premier League strikers.
Not the most decorated, with the one Premier League title and am FA Cup to his name, but at his best he combined an elegant graceful style with impeccable poise, touch and control all topped off with lethal finishing ability.
His injuries held him back and he only achieved two seasons where he played over thirty times. Nevertheless, he still managed an impressive 144 league goals in 280 league games for the Red Devils and the Gunners combined, giving the Dutchman a 0.51 strike rate – a figure only bettered by Thierry Henry, Alan Shearer and Ian Wright.
Indeed it was no coincidence that his best two seasons coincided with the two seasons where he went injury free. He scored 67 goals during those two campaigns.
The highlights the devastating affect a fit van Persie can have and, while there is an element of ‘what if’ about van Persie’s time in England, he should be best remembered for his outstanding 2012/13 season where he took United to a 20th title.
That’s why he should be remembered as one of the best Premier League strikers of all time.