It finally happened. After a summer of conjecture, Manchester United agreed terms with Arsenal for the transfer of Robin Van Persie Wednesday evening. The move is arguably the biggest transfer in the history of the Premier League. Not in monetary terms, but the sheer magnitude it has delivered perhaps eclipses anything we have seen before in this league.
After summers characterised by frustration and perhaps envy where Manchester United watched Manchester City bringing in Europe’s most sought-after players, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have bitten back. Against the troubling backdrop of the Glazer family grimly putting the club on the New York Stock Exchange, the Red Devils have purchased the finest striker in world football.
It is a marquee signing unlike any other Manchester United have made in years, given the player and the club involved, and is likely to thrill United supporters as much as it will enrage Arsenal’s. What is to be, a sensational signing of the best forward in the Premier League, and perhaps the world? Or an excessive fee of £24 million needlessly spent on proven, but aging player, who has completed just a single season of his career, injury free?
Van Persie’s injury record prior to last season’s 30-goal haul is well documented, and has been used as an example of lack of foresight in this deal. There is certainly a risk factor in the deal, considering the hefty transfer fee and the likely exorbitant wages involved. But there is the argument that this is what was needed, a signing that screams ambition despite the ugly decisions made at the board room level.
RVP will join United’s burgeoning list of strikers along with the undroppable Wayne Rooney, the blossoming Danny Welbeck and the Javier Hernandez to complete a fine collection of forwards. Assuming United can eventually find a buyer for Dimitar Berbatov and Federico Macheda goes out on loan again.
Further down the team, the role Shinji Kagawa will be a compelling one. The Japanese international operates most effectively behind a lone forward, and showed what he is capable of when he is at his exquisite best during Borussia Dortmund’s title winning campaign last season. The 23-year-old is capable making the game his own in the final third of the pitch, but assuming both Wayne Rooney and RVP start when available, will Kagawa miss out on his preferred role, if two strikers start ahead of him? There is a plethora of mind-boggling combinations now available.
Presumably Ferguson has a plan for his unprecedented array of attacking talent, but what may concern some United fans are holes elsewhere in the team. Required investment was evident last season, notably in central midfield and at left back. Has the signing of the Arsenal captain (nope… still doesn’t sound right) eaten up funds that were needed for investment in these areas? The remaining two weeks of the transfer window may see this addressed.
It is easy to understand the frustration of Arsenal fans. Despite having no love lost for Manchester City, the sale of their talismanic forward to Sir Alex Ferguson’s team may be a harder notion to accept. Not to mention the rivalry the clubs share stemming from years of Premier League battles, Arsenal would feel that before the RVP signing, they were closer to Manchester United in terms of personnel quality and squad depth, than they are to Manchester City. As a result of Van Persie’s move to Old Trafford, that gap between the two sides has widened.
But who else was there to sell to? Juventus, plagued by off-field problems, most notably the small matter of their coach Antonio Conte facing a 10-month ban, had seemingly ended their interest. Manchester City reluctantly ended their pursuit soon after. Wenger yesterday told Sky Sports he had no choice in the matter, and it appears he didn’t in the end.
Arsenal’s own transfer dealings have been impressive. Long-term target Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla are terrific additions, who should make their way straight into the first team. The returns of Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby hold fantastic promise, and should the club hold onto Alex Song, the club will have a formidable midfield complete with tenacity, flair and invention.
It could be suggested that Van Persie’s exit itself is not the most riling detail. The Dutchman’s contract expires next year, and his desire to leave the club was clear. It was inevitable. The manner in which it has happened will be the source of frustration for Arsenal fans, even if in the long run, this extraordinary piece of business benefits them.