It doesn’t seem that long ago when Van Persie was introduced as a True Red. His ability and the rare nature of such a transfer generated a lot of hype but the Dutchman firmly lived up to it. With a transfer fee of about £25m, Robin was handed the number 20 jersey as many people believed he would lead us to the 20th title.
Robin did score a lot of goals for the club and made some memorable moments. Below, I take a look at some of the events that made RVP one of the United greats that he is today.
6. MANCHESTER UNITED 3 OLYMPIAKOS 0
Cometh the hour Cometh the man. No greater night have United ever needed a Savior and Robin was at hand to come to our rescue. The stakes could never have been higher. With two unanswered goals, it was clear what our work was; win by a three goal difference and conceding an away goal would have meant the end of the road for us. It was the most Manchester United style of play we ever produced under David Moyes. The gaffer in keeping with the night asked the fans to show up for the match and produce unwavering support and boy did they! “Come on David Moyes, play like Fergie’s boys” was being chanted from the Stretford End.
Giggs played like it was his debut. The man played like 40 was just but a number. With united playing a 4-2-3-1, it was clear we were all attack against an Olympiakos side focused on sitting deep. However in the 25th minute, Giggs pulled an incisive pass which Van Persie raced towards and with an almost clear sight of goal, the Dutchman went down after a heavy challenge in the box. Old Trafford was up in arms but it was so blatant, the referee could only point to the spot. Robin stepped up to take and he did not look like missing, converting a cool one past the hapless keeper. The deadlock had been broken, “Attack! Attack! Attack!” was all Old Trafford reverberated. The fans believed they could do it. With half time beckoning, United pulled level on aggregate when Giggs made a sweeping long pass to Rooney on the right who set it brilliantly for Van Persie to convert it from close range.
David De Gea came to our rescue by making an astonishing double save that would have left keepers past and present bowing before him. The tempo at the break was so high Moyes had no option but to jog along with his players as they headed down the tunnel. Come the second half, there was clear tension in the air. How many stories had we heard of so near yet so far? Surely this couldn’t be the latest installment, could it? Every save De Gea made, was greatly appreciated by the fans; we were still in this. In the 62nd minute, Welbeck went down and a set piece was duly propped twenty yards out. Van Persie and Rooney lined up to take it but it was the Dutch who magnificently curled it over the wall and past the keeper. Delirium! Robin had his hands outstretched, Rooney and the gang were chasing, Trafford erupted into a joyous fit and Moyes was smiling. They had done it.
When their backs were against the wall, that’s when they fought hardest. United still had to hold their nerve for the remaining 38 minutes but the job was done. It was a sad sight when Robin had to be stretchered off with a not so serious injury but he received a justified standing ovation. There was tension towards the end but De Gea was at hand to thwart any threat The Dutch referee finally blew the final whistle and no one save for the opposition could hide their smiles. Handshakes were shared all round. It was unfortunate the man of the moment, the man of the match and the match ball owner was not present but he had done his job already, just like an unsung hero.
5. MANCHESTER CITY 2 – MANCHESTER UNITED 3
First against second, the best attack against the best defence, the number one home team against the number one away team. Not many derbies have been balanced quite as this. United were cruising and not even the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool or Arsenal could stop them, could city do it? There was not telling which way this would go as the two sets of players walked out onto the Etihad Stadium. United were quickest off the blocks when Young received a chested pass from Van Persie to set him free down the left hand side on a counter attack. He teed the ball to Rooney who lined his strong foot and released a seemingly harmless ball which sneaked past Hart. It didn’t take long for the second as Valencia down the right set up an overlapping Rafael to tee a low cross which Rooney met perfectly to smash it in for his second,
United weren’t done yet. Van Persie received a pass on the edge of box, quickly turned and wrapped his right foot around it, Hart was beaten all ends up but it smacked the outright. Young was at hand to convert the rebound but he was adjudged offside.
City had been shaken back to reality and Carlos Tevez picked the ball and ran all the way to the box, did a one-two with Silva and swung his right foot at it but Dave denied him, Silva came next but Dave denied him too, pulling a brilliant Double Save. United failed to clear and Yaya Toure slotted a low shot past De Gea to pull one back. City were buzzing and after a corner was poorly cleared, Zabaleta got a free shot at the edge of the box to thump it in; city were level five minuted from time.
With United running on Fergie time, Rafael was clipped on the edge of the box. Robin was the only one standing behind the ball, looking to put his left foot to good use. And good use it was! The ball took a slight deflection and went past an outstretched Hart. In his first United derby, Van Persie had won the points for us! The away section went up in disbelief. It was a fitting end to a closely-contested match.
4. SOUTHAMPTON 2 – MANCHESTER UNITED 3
United traveled to the South for this one. It was Ferguson’s 1,000 game in charge and the starting eleven were all focused on making it memorable, in a good way. Van Persie was on the back of scoring his first United goal and you could feel even before the game that he would have an impact. United had the habit of conceding first and it didn’t take long before Lambert owned Rafael in the air to nod home from close range, leaving Rafa sprawling on the ground. Valencia delivered a cross into the box which got Clyne’s feet mixed up and the English international tripped, leaving Van Persie the space and time to chest the ball down and fire a shot into the Saints’ net.
A Patrice Evra trip also allowed Schneiderlin a free header, a chance he duly buried to restore Soton’s lead. It did not last long as a Rafael cross was met by an out of position Ferdinand who could only head the ball to the outright but Van Persie was in the right place to ensure United were level. With United being United, it was not over till the final whistle. Nani’s delivery from a corner, Van Persie’s glancing header and the crowd behind the Saints goalpost couldn’t believe it! United had snatched it at the last possible minute. It doesn’t get better than that for a United fan!
This was one of the few matches where United looked like underdogs against Arsenal in recent years. Wenger’s men were cruising at the top of the table while Moyes’ team would be 11 points adrift of the League Leaders had they lost that game. We simply had to win. United started the game well and except for some skilful defending, we should have been on top. However, it was still to come. United got a corner and Wayne Rooney went up to cross the ball in. Van Persie was being closely watched but somehow he peeled away from Arsenal’s marking to meet Rooney’s corner with a wonderful glancing header past a vertically challenged Gibbs. Prior to this game, Van Persie had scored in his last two meetings against Arsenal but he was always hesitant to celebrate. Wenger had insisted that Robin was still an Arsenal player before the match started. Van Persie certainly made things clear when he rushed to the by line in celebration, mouth wide open as he celebrated the goal and was visibly happy with denying his former employers.
2. MANCHESTER UNITED 3 – FULHAM 2
It was the first home game of the season. United had lost their first game and Van Persie was in the line-up for a starting place. Old Trafford was excited. However the game got off to the worst start when Sidwell converted a low set piece to give Fulham the lead. Normalcy was restored when Evra delivered a ball into the box and VP connected in the most spectacular of ways. While being closely man marked, the ball took a little bounce and with lack of space and time, there was only one thing Robin could do. He connected with the inside of his left foot to take the ball past the keeper. United went on to win the match but that strike will forever be remembered all around the Trafford ground.
- MANCHESTER UNITED 3 – ASTON VILLA 0
City had just lost to Spurs the previous day and it couldn’t have been an easier job for United; win the game, win the title. United were at home against struggling Villa. Villa sounded like cheap bait dangled in front of a famished beast. Rooney was on top form for this game as he did a 55 yard pass to find Valencia down the right wing. Who set up Rafa for the cross which Giggs met to push it back towards goal and Van Persie finished what was a great team goal. Its United second that is the talking point. Where do you even start?
Rooney again lofted a wonderful ball in search of Van Persie. The Dutch was being shadowed but his eyes were focused solely on the ball. Every United fan hoped the pass wasn’t too weighted and that Robin would bring it down skilfully. How wrong they were! The clinical forward lashed his left foot at it to score an outrageous goal. It was an astonishing strike that warranted the ‘goal of the season’ tag. From so far out it looked ridiculous to attempt that shot but Van Persie was a master of the (finishing) game, Guzan can attest to that. Van Persie had the chance to complete his hat trick when he received a ball from Giggs on the counter, rounded the keeper and tucked it into the roof of the net. He didn’t waste chances this man. RVP, MVP. Van Persie was THAT GUY.
As he is due to be represent Fenerbarhce in this coming campaign, we must not let what he did seem like something trivial. 86 league appearances, 48 goals. There’s no denying that VP’s mission at United has been accomplished. He was brought in to win us the league but he provided extra, among them he made us the second English team to reach the quarters during the 2013/2014 season, won numerous individual awards including goal of the season, player of the year for both BBC and the PFA, three Player of the month awards among others. We would have liked to have had a longer relationship with you sir but the management sought it best that you ply your trade somewhere else as you come close to what is an amazing football career. Thank you for all you did and especially for delivering that elusive 20th Premier League title. Good luck in your endeavors Robin. WE WILL NEVER FORGET.