Sunday, 12 July 2015

Farewell to United's Flying Dutchman.


In 2012 Robin van Persie left the Gunners to fire Manchester United to their record breaking 20th Premier League title and in doing so cemented his status as a hero among the United fans.

However, all good things must come to an end and after three years at Old Trafford Robin van Persie has agreed to sign for Turkish outfit Fenerbahce in Istanbul.

After eight years at Arsenal in which he only won the FA Cup van Persie was brought to United by Alex Ferguson for a fee of around £23m and immediately made an impact with the United faithful by choosing to wear the number 20 on his shirt explaining that if the Red Devils win the Premier league in his first season it would be their 20th.

His debut didn't exactly go according to plan when he came on to replace Welbeck against Everton, but he couldn't stop the Toffees winning 1-0 at Goodison Park, however, five days later he started his first game for United and managed to score in front of the Old Trafford crowd as United beat Fulham 3-2.

At Arsenal van Persie had regularly been sidelined with injuries, but in his first season at United it was a different story as he went on to make a total of 48 appearances scoring 30 goals a brilliant return by any standards.

The majority of goals that he scored proved pivotal in bringing the Premier League trophy to Old Trafford. They included his first hat-trick against Southampton, a late penalty at Anfield to secure a 2-1 win, a goal against his former club Arsenal celebrated with great aplomb, an injury time free kick away to Man City to give United a 3-2 victory and lastly an absolutely fantastic hat-trick versus Aston Villa to secure the league title. Included in his three goals against Villa was a sublime volley.

Everybody could see that van Persie and his manager enjoyed a very good relationship and it was summed up when the Dutchman struck a penalty away at Stoke after which he immediately rushed over to the touchline where he jumped into the grateful arms of Alex Ferguson.

Van Persie had also built a rapport with the fans who voted him their player of the year for that Championship winning season.

Sadly for United and as it turned out van Persie, Alex Ferguson called it a day while he was at the top and was replaced in the summer of 2013 with David Moyes. Things did get off to a promising start as van Persie scored a double against Wigan in the traditional curtain opener, The Community Shield, and he carried his goal scoring form into the first league match of the season scoring another two against Swansea City on the road.

However, the season turned out to be a disaster for the club with the players clearly not enjoying the style of play under Moyes. Over the season van Persie managed 28 appearances and scored 18 goals.

The one bittersweet match for van Persie was in the Champions League last 16 tie against Greek side Olympiakos at Old Trafford. Needing to overturn a 0-2 deficit van Persie really got amongst the visitors scoring another fantastic hat-trick to give the home side a 3-2 aggregate victory.

The celebrations were hampered by the news that United's goal hero had picked up an injury that would mean he would not only miss the quarter-final against Bayern Munich, but also meant that he would not be available for selection by interim manager Ryan Giggs, who had replaced sacked Moyes, until the season was all but over.

After that dreadful season things started to look up for the Dutch striker, not only had Moyes been replaced by his friend and national team manager Louis van Gaal, but he also had the 2014 World Cup tournament to look forward to in Brazil and what a start to the competition as Holland thrashed holders Spain 5-1 with van Persie scoring twice. The one that had everyone talking was the marvellous diving header from distance which earned him the nickname 'The Flying Dutchman.'

Van Gaal and his team managed to go all the way to the semi-finals and United fans became excited about the upcoming season, especially with the new talent brought into the squad which would include a potent forward line of van Persie, Rooney, Falcao and Di Maria. To say the fans were licking their lips would have been an understatement.

Van Persie was overlooked by van Gaal for the captaincy of United in favour of Rooney at the start of the 2014-15 season, but as the gentleman he is van Persie never moaned and gave his backing to his new captain.

Over the season van Persie managed to make one more appearance than the previous one, but it was his eye for goal that was the problem managing only 10 which all came in the league. To be fair, he did miss a chunk of the season with an ankle injury and at the age of 31 his stamina must have been sapped by a long run and the heat in the World Cup in Brazil.

His commitment to the cause could never be questioned along with the respect from the fans as was shown when he netted the late equaliser against Chelsea. Old Trafford erupted as he put the ball in the net and his shirt throwing celebration was one of relief and joy.

Even though United qualified for the Champions League by finishing fourth it became clear that van Persie wasn't in van Gaal's plans for the future and a move to Fenerbahce was agreed.

Robin van Persie had nothing to prove when he came to United as he was already a proven striker of pure class, however, in his time at the club he continued to surprise with the quality of his finishing especially in his first season.

If only he had joined at a younger age who knows what more he could have achieved as a Red Devil.

Good luck and thanks for the great memories and goals Robin.

Miles Dunton.