With Arsenal captain Robin van Persie certain to sign for Manchester United, the balance of power in the English Premier League shifts again towards the country’s northwest. Despite Arsenal’s best efforts to provide him with support in the form of the deepest squad of his tenure at the Emirates, van Persie’s quest for self actualisation through silverware now continues at Old Trafford.
Manchester United already have Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez as their main strikers with us discounting Dimitar Berbatov as it is expected the experienced Bulgarian will leave the club this summer, and these are all top strikers in their own right with different abilities and traits that complement each other’s games. Many have speculated that the arrival of Robin Van Persie would hinder the development of both Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez and at the time of that speculation Danny Welbeck had still yet to sign a new contract at Old Trafford however as a result of the last few days negotiating that has now been rectified. It is a key point to make that to win the modern era European cup you need four top forwards or a player of the absolute highest caliber for example Cristiano Ronaldo in the triumph of Moscow 2008. We saw a perfect example of four strikers at work in 1999 when Manchester United won their second European cup in the most dramatic of circumstances with Ole Solskjaer’s late late winner, with a squad which had four top quality strikers in the shape of Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Teddy Sheringham and Solskjaer himself. Sir Alex Ferguson knew just how to rotate his strikers in 1999 with them all playing an instrumental part in the treble success and with this experience under his belt Sir Alex will do just the same this season with Van Persie, Rooney, Hernandez and Welbeck ensuring they will all play a significant parts both in terms of game time and contribution goal wise. In 1999 Cole and Yorke built a partnership and Solskjaer and Sheringham built a partnership with Sir Alex rotating which pair would start depending on fitness and the opposition, this is more than likely going to be the case this year with Van Persie and Rooney having the potential to be the most potent strike partnership in England with the two internationals having amassed fifty-seven league goals between them last season and the pace and energy of Danny Welbeck and Hernandez have the potential to unlock the more cumbersome of defences such as Stoke City and Wigan. Whilst I initially shared the worry that the signing of Van Persie would damage Welbeck and Hernandez I feel somewhat more at ease now that Welbeck has penned a new deal and we can look back on the treble winning year as a point of reference in regards to having four strikers of significant ability.
Another argument that has been put forward is that whilst United are spending significant money of a striker they don’t necessarily need, the issue in the centre of midfield is still going unattended however it may not be absolutely vital at least for a further season that a midfielder is signed. Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick will be the main midfield partnership next season despite Scholes’ age and Anderson and Tom Cleverley will be used to rotate and freshen up the midfield when needs be which is a perfectly acceptable scenario. There is also the possibility that Ryan Giggs can play in the central midfield role which he has done when Sir Alex Ferguson has seen fit for a number of years now, and furthermore new signing Shinji Kagawa could also drop deeper into the midfield with his fantastic eye for a pass however this would more than likely only be used as a last resort with Kagawa being signed to adopt the ‘false nine’ role with David Silva operates in so effectively at Manchester City. The signing of Van Persie will only add to Manchester United’s goal scoring prowess following their tally of eighty-nine league goals last season and the need for a central midfielder is diminished for at least a season with Paul Scholes back in the first team set up and Darren Fletcher appearing to have returned to football last night in a friendly against Aberdeen following nine months out due to health issues.
The reported fee of £24m is undoubtedly a steep one with Manchester United in recent history reluctant to pay significant money for 26-year-old plus players and with Robin Van Persie at twenty-nine as this deal goes through you would be forgiven for labelling the transfer an uncharacteristically risky one on the part of Manchester United. Contrary to the feelings of many Arsenal supporters this evening the London club are in truth getting a very good deal, £24m for a player who is out of contract next summer and is twenty-nine years old, this fee will allow the Gunners to go and re-strengthen in the market be it this summer or next summer with the latter being the more likely option following the signings of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud already this summer to diminish the impact in terms of goals of Van Persie leaving the club. From a Manchester United point of view this signing proves to certain sections of the fan base that the club has money to spend although this is rather unimportant in terms of footballing matters, the relatively low resale value suggests that Van Persie will see out his career at Old Trafford with him not only having the ability to influence on field matters in the short-term but to aid the development of younger strikers for example Federico Macheda and Will Keane which will improve them as individuals and be beneficial for the club in the long-term. The experience Van Persie will bring to Old Trafford is excellent with the Dutchman having reached a World cup final in 2010 with the Netherlands and also having played in the European cup for a considerable number of years with Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal which may well make the high transfer fee spent on bringing Van Persie to the club ‘money well spent’.
Seasoned veteran Edwin van der Sar formerly of Manchester United at the end of his career last week publicly stated that he hoped Robin Van Persie would sign for Manchester United and this shows the commonly perceived impact the Dutchman will have on the squad, with United being expected to regain the Premier League title from Manchester City next year there may well be huge pressure put on Van Persie which isn’t surprising due to his high transfer fee and one can only hope that Van Persie doesn’t become weighed down under this pressure but with the Dutch forwards history as captain of Arsenal there is much to suggest he thrives under such expectation.
Many have wondered whether Van Persie will be able to adapt to Manchester United’s style of play in comparison to Arsenal’s however I think we may see a change of style at Old Trafford this coming season which will benefit Van Persie significantly. Following the aforementioned signing of Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund, United now have a player who can operate in the ‘false nine’ position just behind the forwards and this is exactly where Samir Nasri operated during his final season at the Emirates where he was simply outstanding. Samir Nasri’s creativity in that role not only created opportunities for the Frenchman but it also caused problems for defences with Nasri being able to link the midfield to the forwards and play quick short passes to give Robin Van Persie chances in behind the defence and it is something Van Persie thrived upon scoring eighteen League goals in the 2010-2011 campaign. Kagawa will do exactly the same thing in this position for United which is something Van Persie is used to and knows how to position himself to get the best possible chance to score a goal with the potential for quick link up play between the two new signings leaving United supporters awfully excited indeed.
Whilst there will be continuous debate between United supporters regarding the transfer of Robin Van Persie until well after the season gets underway depending on the Dutchman’s performances, I myself at this point fully believe it to be a positive move which completely contradicts what I stated a month or so ago but I suppose that is football. There is just no way you can complain when your club has completed the signing of both the Bundesliga and Premier League’s respective players of the year and it is with this that I head into the start of the Premier League season next Monday evening with the highest of hopes that United will once again challenge both domestically and on the continent with Sir Alex Ferguson having been in a similar position to this before in 1999, and that went on to work out rather well. It is also interesting to see where Arsenal go from here with it being difficult to see them signing a further player this transfer window despite the departure of Van Persie and it may well be a similar case as with the replacements for Fabregas and Nasri that a season passes before Wenger moves to replace the player he has lost although following the arrivals of Podolski, Giroud and most recently Santi Cazorla I think it may well be the best chance Arsenal have had to challenge for the Premier League title in a number of seasons. Finally the transfer of Robin Van Persie may well prove to be a disaster for Manchester United but for now we must just accept it has happened and look forward to a season with hugely impressive firepower which will undoubtedly make Manchester City slightly apprehensive ahead of the upcoming campaign in which they look to defend their Premier League crown.