Why Van Persie will never shake Arsenal off

Manchester United striker Robin van Persie stated this week that United could be his ‘last club’ and at 29 years of age, you wouldn’t bet against it.

The Dutchman spent the early years of his career in Holland with Feyanoord after a brief spell in Excelsior’s youth ranks and transferred to Arsenal in 2004 at the age of 21.

He was brought in by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger as a prospective long-term replacement for Thierry Henry who eventually departed for pastures new at Barcelona in 2007, three years after Van Persie’s arrival in North London.

Now, in retrospect, it is clear for all to see why Wenger held the Dutch ace in such high esteem and why comparisons to the five times French Player of the Year, two time European Golden Boot winner, and two time PFA Player of the Year winner are made.

They are actually very similar players – both converted left-wingers with exceptional technique, flair and tenacity, along with incredible free-kick taking ability.

Both have played in a World Cup Final and a Champions League Final and both have been considered the most dangerous men in the Premier League at the peak of their powers.

Robin van Persie engineered his own move away from Arsenal, much like Henry did back in 2007. Both wanted to play for the best team – Barcelona are arguably the best team in the world and Manchester United are undoubtedly the best team in England.

Van Persie stated this week he will likely see out the remainder of his career at Old Trafford and, at 29 years old with a contract that runs until the summer of 2016, I would imagine that will more than likely be the case.

But the Dutchman’s overnight love for Manchester United and sudden connection to the fans, the history, the manager and his teammates will never convince me that he is a Red Devil.

The medals he will rack up at United and the adoration from fans of the biggest club in the world – the sales of shirts with his name on the back – none of that will ever erase from memory that he was and, in many ways, always will be an Arsenal player.

He is quintessentially Arsenal in his style, his technique, and his audacity. Wayne Rooney is quintessentially Manchester United and even the most die-hard United fans will know exactly what I mean.

Robin van Persie did not betray Arsenal by engineering his transfer to their direct rival, he made a self-serving career move. Upwards. He wanted to win titles and he never did with Arsenal.

Thierry Henry remains an Arsenal fan and an Arsenal legend and listening to him in interview, one could reflect that he has regrets about leaving. The same cannot be said of Van Persie.

I very much doubt he regrets his move last summer but no amount of chest-thumping and badge kissing will fool anyone.

He plays in Manchester but he was made in North London. He plays for Sir Alex Ferguson but he was created by Arsene Wenger. Even if he’s forgotten that, Arsenal fans never will.

When he returns to the Emirates on April 28th Robin van Persie will not be receive the heroes welcome home of Thierry Henry or of Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford. He will not be applauded for his 8 years service to the club and he will not be praised for his non-celebration if and when he scores.

He will be booed for his betrayal of the club that made him everything he is, hissed at for his disregard and disrespect for his mentor and jeered for his disloyalty.

images: © Ronnie Macdonald, © Ronnie Macdonald

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