ROBIN van Persie turned the clock back two decades for the answer to the biggest question of his life.
With his career at Arsenal at a crossroads, Van Persie knew Europe’s biggest clubs all wanted him. Last season’s Golden Boot, plus the prestigious PFA player-of-the-year award were merely confirmation of what everyone felt about the 29-year-old.
Juventus confirmed their interest. Manchester City started the summer believing Van Persie would join their title-winning squad. But when Van Persie listened for that little voice, the answer was straightforward; join United.
“In these situations, when you have to make a hard decision in your life, I always listen to that little boy inside me,” he said.
“What does he want? That boy was screaming for Manchester United.”
Van Persie likes to think of himself as a student of the game.
He is interested in far more than the here and now. And, for all City’s riches, it was the history at Old Trafford, which at the very moment Van Persie was speaking, was playing host to yet another group of tourists eager to learn about Jonny Carey, Munich and Sir Matt Busby, which attracted him.
“Manchester United breathes football – every aspect,” he said.
“I made my decision quite quickly. It was based on a lot of things. All the Manchester United players, the stadium, manager. I love football. From that perspective I am quite principled.
“And I feel this is the perfect match for me.”
As United’s recent transfer dealings have tended to err on the side of caution, Arsenal’s supporters can hardly claim Van Persie has gone for the money, as they did with Nasri and Emmanuel Adebayor, two of a growing list of departures that have done such damage to Arsene Wenger’s vision. Booed by the travelling Gunners supporters when he was introduced as a substitute during last Sunday’s pre-season encounter with Cologne, Van Persie is nevertheless keen to limit the antagonism from a club where he spent eight largely happy years.
“I would like to thank Arsenal and Arsene Wenger for the last eight years,” said Van Persie. “The last eight years have been part of my history. They have always been good to me. I look back on the last eight years on a positive note. I don’t want things to get twisted. From my side definitely, and I think from Arsenal’s, there are no hard feelings. It is just that on certain elements, that were vital for me, we had a different view. That is life. No-one is angry with me. I am not angry with them. Sometimes you disagree on things.”
Van Persie regards his latest challenge as the biggest of his life. Having seen Nasri and Cesc Fabregas prosper since leaving Arsenal, now his intention is to do the same. Key to that dream will be how he gels with Wayne Rooney. Van Persie was the only person to score more Premier League goals than Rooney last season and Ferguson knows the crucial element of his entire project is getting the pair to work together to produce the same individual tallies.
“I love to play with Wayne Rooney,” said Van Persie. “He is world class. When I look at players, I like to see if they can adapt in every single game. Wayne Rooney can score a lot of goals. He can make assists.
“He can play for the team. He works hard.
“But it is not just him. (Paul) Scholes and (Ryan) Giggs are world class and have been proving it for 20 years. I like to think we are all in it together.”