Is Rooney giving Van Persie deja vu?

This summer the big transfer saga is Wayne Rooney who handed in a transfer request to Manchester United in May, according to Sir Alex Ferguson upon his retirement.

Rooney has just under two years left on his £250,000 a week contract negotiated rather painstakingly in 2010. Manchester United are not a club that is used to having their star players hold them over a barrel in effect but their star signing last summer Robin van Persie may know a thing or two about that.

The current situation with Rooney at United holds a striking resemblance to Van Persie’s departure from Arsenal this time last year. The differences are that the Dutchman had one year less left on his contract and rather than hand in an official transfer request he simply issued a public statement revealing he would not be signing a new contract with the Gunners – other than that the narratives are remarkably similar.

Furthermore, Van Persie was not the first star player or captain to defect from the North Londoners – in fact, he was part of a trend, rather than the exception. The previous summer in 2011, the Dutch ace would have witnessed much the same rigmarole unfold at the Emirates with former captain Cesc Fabregas who left for Barcelona and Samir Nasri who signed for Manchester City.

Van Persie may well have had his own reasons for abandoning ship at the Emirates but the path to departure was walked many times by many of his former teammates before him. That has not been the case at Manchester United, however. Rarely are the current Premier League champions left to resign themselves to losing their best players.

The last time I can remember United ‘losing’ a top player was Cristiano Ronaldo and the club were compensated very well indeed for that loss. Before him it was perhaps David Beckham but, by all accounts, it was the manager’s decision to oust him from the club, rather than the player’s.

Robin van Persie may be experiencing a feeling of déjà vu this summer – not only because Rooney’s situation is not altogether dissimilar from his own just a year ago but because the 29-year-old is watching it happen again; a top player engineering his own escape.

This situation is, I doubt, what Van Persie would have expected to unfold when he signed for the Red Devils last year, nor would he have expected Sir Alex Ferguson to retire. There are no guarantees in this sport but Van Persie may well be feeling a little on edge given that so much of next season remains a mystery to him.

How is the new manager going to adapt and transition into his new role? Who is going to play alongside or behind Van Persie is Rooney leaves? If Rooney goes, will his replacement be first in the pecking order?

This is the kind of uncertainty the Dutchman would have experienced season after season with Arsenal but I bet he never expected to go through it at Old Trafford.

The other concern should be that if Rooney does indeed get his way and secure a move away from United, that sets a president for other players and one only need to look at Arsenal as evidence of what a toll that can take on club, a manager, and a team.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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