According to an Arsenal shareholders meeting Robin Van Persie turned down the offer of £300,000 a week to go to Manchester City. Obviously it was more than hard cash that turned the talented Dutchman’s head. When United offered him the chance to work with Eric Cantona’s scriptwriter the deal was sealed.
Nobody since that talismanic, Gallic firebrand has had such an instant impact at Manchester United as Van Persie. Normal superlatives simply do not do him justice. Whilst its true that before he left Ronaldo had become equally as important to us he had taken a few seasons to find his feet and grew into that role. Van Persie hasn’t just hit the ground running, he’s doing backflips, cartwheels the lot. There’s a guy I play football with who has Arsenal leanings and every time I see him I say “Some player that Van Persie. Bloody hell!”. Right foot, left foot, headers, corners, free kicks, belters, tap ins, playing deep, coming on as sub… Is there nothing the guy can’t do? It wouldn’t surprise me if they revealed he mowed the pitch or drove the team bus.
Roberto Mancini has said recently that he feels its Van Persie that has made the difference this season and I would agree with that. Most of the time Mancini talks crap but he got this one dead right. I felt that United, since Ronaldo left carried very little threat away from home. We had to rely on Rooney to have a worldy to win at places like the Etihad, Anfield or Stamford Bridge. This season, with Van Persie, we’ve already won at all three. Its not just his goals or his performances either. He’s bringing the best out of Rooney, Hernandez, Welbeck and more recently Giggs. Top players love playing with top players and they’ve rightly recognised that in Van Persie they’ve found one at the absolute zenith of his powers.
I knew he was a very good player before we signed him but I never appreciated just how good. When the news finally came that we had clinched his signature I was excited, mainly because it was the first time we’d signed a real top name player considered to be at the top of his game for a long time. Like many I thought our real priorities lay in strengthening midfield. Finding a real box to box midfielder. Someone to boss things like that Stretch Armstrong guy City have in their midfield. What I couldn’t appreciate and Sir Alex could is that a player like Van Persie can paper over an awful lot of deficiencies. When you have a Van Persie you don’t need a midfield! That of course is over simplifying things and doing a disservice to the likes of Carrick who has been excellent this season. United are now allowed more time on the ball in midfield because teams are far too worried about what is going on behind them to press the ball too highly up the park and in effect slitting their own throats. The more time you allow Carrick then the more likely he will pick the perfect pass and then Van Persie or Hernandez still hurt you anyway.
I like the look of this United side right now. Its not yet perfect, or a vintage side but all the signs are good. The old not knowing when they are beaten thing has certainly returned with interest this season. More players are adding their name to the scoresheet, Evans and Evra anyone? I love the work ethic and the togetherness shown too. In yesterdays cup game at West Ham the Van Persie equaliser was the only thing that for me bettered what happened around the 40th minute. Smalling played a ball to Rafael down the right hand side and although it was always going to beat him he chased it right down to the corner flag and slid onto the tarmac in a forlorn effort to keep the ball in. Two minutes later exactly the same ball and he did exactly the same again. Same result. Now I know you’ll probably think I have finally gone radio rental and what was so good about letting West Ham have two goal kicks but that reaction says all you need to know about the state of a football club. If things are wrong behind the scenes then Rafael stops dead in his tracks, throws his arms theatrically in the air then points to a spot on the grass where he wanted the ball to be placed. We’ve all seen players do it. I don’t chase crap like that it says, I’m too good for that. That a lad from Brazil showed the same desire to chase down a lost cause as you would expect a lad from Bury says a lot. He ended up with a sore backside for his trouble but keep doing it and he’ll end up with a sore neck from having medals put round it.
Whatever you want to call it, will to win, desire, heart, hunger. Even a single bloody mindedness not to get beat. This United team have it in spades. Could you really expect any different from a team managed by Sir Alex Ferguson? Whatever else he thinks might kill his players hard work certainly isn’t one of them!