A different red, the same Robin van Persie finally conquers England

By Dominic Vieira

Everything turned to gold for Manchester United the moment Alex Ferguson completed one of the finest signings of his career. A historic coup d’etat. On the 15th of August 2012, Robin Van Persie joined the club for £24m and a masterplan to retake the Premier League crown from local rivals was set in place. 

They had already tasted success as Ferguson triumphed before the start of another season, jousting Roberto Mancini in a transfer market where he’d previously been so active and dominant. Van Persie wanted one club, the red one, as he clearly stated during his unveiling: "Manchester United breathes football. If you look at all the players from Manchester United, the stadium, the manager - my choice was made very soon in my mind."

His debut against Everton was rusty and perhaps never should have happened, but that was soon forgotten as another the ‘Flying Dutchman’ soon continued his renowned scoring form, which saw him win last year’s golden boot with 30 goals. His third performance for the club, away at Southampton, perfectly summarises his debut season with Manchester United. Not only did he net a hattrick - his first since the 4th of February v Blackburn - but the winner that was struck in stoppage time, heading onto a Nani corner, set the headline that has revolved around Van Persie’s endlessly, match winner.

A few weeks later the same lethal touch was executed, this time the victims were Liverpool as he converted a penalty in the 81st to turn around the score. The team left the home of their eternal rivals, Anfield, with three points in the bag. This was his fifth goal in five matches, the fans were chanting and the manager was praising, Manchester United at last had found their new Van Nistelrooy, Ronaldo could be forgotten and the Cantona comparisons were soon emerging - as they do.

His greatest moment (so far) for the Red Devils arrived couple of games later, on the day of their most important fixture, at the fortress of Manchester City, where they lost their crown last season. Again Van Persie struck lightning in 11th hour, with a blow as powerful as Mohamed Ali’s, curling a freekick into the bottom right of Joe Hart’s goal, sending the away fans into raptures. 3-2, and as Sir Alex described it, “it was a wicked shot”. The city once again had been painted red and a new hero was born, Robin Van Persie. Vendetta.

It became a comfortable ride for Manchester United, where they went on to win 40 points from a possible 42 until they lost to City at home on their run. But at this stage, the title was pretty much won with Van Persie netting another eight goals along the way and going through a goal draught that many strikers endure. In fact, following their defeat fourth defeat of the season, Robin returned to goals scoring against Stoke and West Ham, placing the club one match away from the title with a very healthy 13 point advantage. They were cruising.

Van Persie left Arsenal for success and silverware, which is every footballer’s dream. They all know that only the champions are remembered in this game, that is why at the age of 29, he had to leave London. The wait was finally over and for Robin it was worth it.

“I am very happy but it is weird. I had to wait so long for my first title. It is a great feeling.

Despite a glorious Premier League campaign, where Manchester United stamped their authority over British football, Van Persie’s magic was not enough to illuminate other stages. Most importantly, the Champions League. Placing the controversies that surrounded the second leg against Real Madrid aside, could Van Persie have done more other than score three goals in this tournament? The memory which will still be fresh for both him and fans, was that poor finish at the Bernabeu. The chance was there.

Domestically, it’s unfair to point the finger at him as Chelsea pulled a double attack, knocking the club out of both the League Cup and FA Cup successively. Those were three encounters in which Van Persie did not start. But shortly after winning the Premier League on home turf, he underlined his ambition is to win everything next year.

But that’s another tale, this one is about his 24 goals that saw Manchester United conquer their 20th Premier League as their number 20 netted a hattrick, including a world class volley thanks to Rooney’s vision, in a stadium that is now his home. And eight years later Van Persie rightfully wears the crown of King. One question remais: first of many?

This piece was written by Dominic Vieira, AFR’s Managing Editor. Comments below please. 

 

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