The ‘story’ broke this weekend via an Irish radio station that Robin van Persie handed in a transfer request to champions Manchester United – manager David Moyes refutes these claims made by BBC pundit Mark Lawrenson and dismissed them as ridiculous but I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if they were closer to the truth than the boss would have us believe.
It’s been a difficult start to the season for United and a difficult start to the job for Moyes – it couldn’t have much worse – after a 20th league title win under Sir Alex Ferguson last term, the reigning champions sit in 9th place 13 points behind leaders Arsenal having won six games, drawn four and lost five.
Last season United lost five games all season – that was it – but whispers emanating from the club and the players hint at an uneasiness and discontent at Old Trafford.
Club veteran Rio Ferdinand stated last week that Moyes was ‘driving him mad’ with his team selection policy and back in October Dutch fitness specialist Raymond Verheijen suggested Moyes’ ‘dinosaur’ training regime was damaging the Netherlands international.
Those who endured United’s 1-0 defeat by Newcastle at Old Trafford last weekend would perhaps agree that the Dutch ace didn’t seem himself but, before we overreact and get the body language experts in, we must remember he’s just returned from a groin injury and wasn’t supposed to be on the pitch beyond 70 minutes.
I think a good comparison to illustrate my point here is Wayne Rooney – the England number 10 has had a great start to the season individually, he’s been in fine condition physically, mentally and his form and confidence have been completely replenished after a challenging season last term. He’s been the heartbeat of the team and the root of all things good this term.
When the going get’s tough, the tough get going, said Billy Ocean and that would apply to Rooney, as well as the likes of Ryan Giggs and Ferdinand too but when the going gets tough, Van Persie tends more to want to just go.
The Dutchman was with Arsenal for eight years and in that eight-year period the Gunners didn’t win a trophy – for seven of those seasons Van Persie suffered injuries and for two of those seasons he was out for more than six months at a time. In his first season without an injury in 2011/12, he scored 30 goals in all competitions and won the PFA Player of the Year award as well as the FWA Footballer of the Year award. That summer, with a year to go on his contract, he jumped ship.
How time distorts – the tables have turned and the fortunes of both Arsenal and Robin van Persie are now almost reversed. The Gunners sit top of the table five points clear and the Dutchman must be scratching his head wondering why he made a break for it, especially following the arrival of record signing Mesut Ozil at the Emirates this summer.
Of course, when he publicly stated he wanted to leave Arsenal, would not be signing a new contract, didn’t believe in the club’s ambitions and no longer wanted to contribute to them, Manchester United were still under the control of Sir Alex Ferguson and were title contenders – now under David Moyes they barely look like qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
Another factor in his move was Ferguson’s assistant, Dutch coach Rene Meulensteen who is reported to have had a hand in convincing Van Persie to join the Red Devils in the summer of 2012. He, along with a number of Ferguson’s coaching personnel have been ousted from the club by David Moyes who opted to bring in a number of his own team from Everton.
It must have been fun to play for Ferguson’s United last term, win the title in sensational style and pick up the Premier League Golden Boot for the second season running – the spotlight was on Van Persie – but it’s probably not as much fun for him now under Moyes, under pressure, with the team having performed so underwhelmingly so far and the title nothing more than a pipe dream.
But he chose to go there, he chose to leave Arsenal, he chose to sign the contract, the little boy in him chose Manchester United – how can the little boy in him now be so disenchanted just over a year later? There are players, like Rooney and Giggs, who play at their best under pressure and rise to the challenge when things get hard, dig their heels in and give their all for the badge and the fans whether it’s for Ferguson or Moyes or whoever.
If these claims made by Lawrenson are true, it paints Van Persie as a fickle and disloyal who throws his toys out the pram as soon as he doesn’t get exactly what he wants or a fair-whether friend who’s only around when things are going well.
If he’s unhappy because Ferguson retired, tough. If he’s unhappy with the appointment of Moyes, tough. If he’s arrogant enough to try to actively force a move through (again) he ought to be held there and forced to honour the terms of his contract – he happily signed a four-year contract, nobody force him, and he ought to honour the little boy inside him and grow up.
image: © Doha Stadium Plus