Robin van Persie reflects on Manchester United move

Former Arsenal star reveals dressing room culture of Red Devils side behind twentieth league title

Manchester United's Robin van Persie walks through Arsenal's guard of honour in 2013. Getty
Manchester United's Robin van Persie walks through Arsenal's guard of honour in 2013. Getty

Robin van Persie signing for Manchester United in 2012 was exactly what the club needed.

The Premier League title had been lost to Manchester City on the final day of the 2011-12 season and United’s dressing room needed a lift.

But when Arsenal’s striker and best player, a player respected by the entire United squad, walked in, smiles broke and heads started nodding.

They saw the Dutchman as someone who could help them win the title back, and their confidence only increased when they saw him unveiled as a United player.

Even though it would be controversial, Van Persie said that the “little boy inside” him was screaming for him to move to United

"Maybe I could have chosen different words,” Van Persie says. “What I meant to say, from my point of view, was [about] when you have to make a difficult decision - and it was a very difficult decision if you add up everything because the last few months were very difficult for me and my family as well at home.”

“At one point, I told Shaqueel [his son], who was a fan of Wayne Rooney, I said: 'Do you like the idea of me playing together with Rooney?' He said: 'Yeah, is he coming to Arsenal?'.

“I said: 'No, no, no. We are going there.’”

“He said: 'But that's far away, a different city.' He was quite young then and said: 'I have friends at school and I am happy here.” So he was not too happy about it, he was not too keen.”

The arrival of van Persie helped Manchester United to a twentieth Premier League title. AFP
The arrival of van Persie helped Manchester United to a twentieth Premier League title. AFP

Talking to next UTD podcast, which comes out on Monday, Van Persie added: “With kids, after three or four days in Manchester, they had new friends and are going so fast.

“A lot of people told me, friends in London, they asked why was I going to live in Manchester? ‘It'll be difficult’, they said, ‘it's really that bad and always raining’ - the classic story about Manchester.

“I said: 'Okay, but I want to make the move. I'm doing it.'

And Manchester was not bad. At all.

“We had one of the best years in Manchester, Bouchra [his wife] and the kids,” explains Van Persie. “They were so happy there. Bouchra was very happy there. London is a beautiful city but, to compare London and Manchester, in London, most people are in a rush.

“Even with a little chat, they are always in a rush and busy working. In Manchester, I noticed a lot of people, they just had more time and can have a chat; shall we go for lunch? Shall we do this? Shall we do that? It was a different lifestyle and, when you have a family, it is the perfect place to be."

Robin van Persie said Manchester United players would push each other on in training. EPA
Robin van Persie said Manchester United players would push each other on in training. EPA

United’s players were immediately impressed by Van Persie in training.

“That’s a massive compliment of course, if you can influence your team mates like that,” he said. “If you can trigger them with your training sessions and with your games. But the funny thing is that Vidic, players like Scholes, Giggs, I saw them doing things I hadn’t seen before.

“We always used to do a short warm-up inside then we used to go outside to do a five against two box game. The level there, from the first ball is at the highest tempo with everyone going for every ball. That really triggered me. I was like: ‘OK, if you really want to stay outside of this box game, you really need to be at your best’.”

Van Persie scored 30 goals in 2012-13, 26 of them in the league, as United won a twentieth league title. Describing the team spirit in his first year, he said: “Who is doing well, who needs help? We were always asking questions.

“It was always about eventually winning. We had to find ways to help each other, to trigger each other, to win.”

“Everyone was at ease with his place in team. Everyone accepted it as well. When you realise that as a team, as a coach, as players then you are always competing for a trophy.”

Robin van Persie became a highly popular player among Arsenal fans before his shock move to their rivals. Reuters
Robin van Persie became a highly popular player among Arsenal fans before his shock move to their rivals. Reuters

United’s second top scorer was Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, with 18 goals – yet he only started 22 games and just nine of them were in the Premier League.

“You could see with Chicharito for example, he wasn’t a first XI player in that year,” said Van Persie. “But he made a big impact. Every single training session he gave more than 100 per cent. He was always there.

“Every single player really counts and I think every player gave each other that feeling. Listen, if you are the number 1 or number 27, everyone counts as much.”

Published: July 25, 2020 01:28 AM

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