x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Manchester United have the arsenal to prosper

Van Persie's success up front combined with Rooney's skills has made them a formidable threat at Old Trafford.

On his own, Robin van Persie has been worth at least nine points as a match-winner for Manchester United.
On his own, Robin van Persie has been worth at least nine points as a match-winner for Manchester United.

Arsenal are accustomed to coming face to face with their past.

It is a regular occurrence when their major talents are packaged and dispatched to Europe's richest clubs, a profitable pattern that keeps the club in the black and the fans in a state of constant despair.

But this is a reunion with a difference. As they revisit the scene of their greatest embarrassment, last season's 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford, they encounter one of their finest forwards and, at the same time, are reminded of another two.

It was in the autumn of 2009 when Arsene Wenger described Robin van Persie as a hybrid of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp. It seemed hyperbole at the time.

Now it simply looks prophetic. Van Persie's 30-goal, nine-assist Premier League season last year amounted to one of the great individual campaigns.

Flashing a finishing touch worthy of the Frenchman and the technique reminiscent of his fellow Dutchman, Van Persie single-handedly staved off decline at the Emirates Stadium.

In the process, and following a depressingly familiar pattern for Arsenal, he outgrew them.

A man who once appeared the quintessential Arsenal player, complete with high ideals about the right way to play the game and run a club, now, with his ability, never-say-die spirit and winning habit, seems an ideal fit for Manchester United.

He can personify a side of Sir Alex Ferguson, just as he epitomised Wenger's ethos.

Scorer of 132 goals in 277 games, bought for £2.75 million (Dh16.3m) and sold for £24m, Van Persie provided testament to the Frenchman's ability as a talent spotter and is a fine advertisement for his business model.

"One of the parts of my job is to have a positive influence on people's lives as a player," Wenger said. "When you manage to do that, you are always kind of satisfied." Not that it will serve as any consolation should Van Persie continue his prolific start to life at Old Trafford today.

Twelve games have brought nine goals. More importantly, they have been worth nine Premier League points already.

"He's been very satisfying for us," Ferguson said. "He's made a fantastic start for us and hopefully he can keep it going."

As Van Persie said in July when announcing his decision to leave Arsenal, his goal was to win trophies. His sole piece of silverware from his time in London - apart from the individual honours the double Footballer of the Year rightly received last season - actually came at United's expense. Van Persie was one of Arsenal's successful penalty takers in the shootout to decide the 2005 FA Cup final.

Wayne Rooney was the man of the match in that stalemate but his subsequent haul, of four Premier League titles and one Champions League, contrasts with Van Persie's extended barren streak.

The combination of the two most prolific players in the country last season - 72 goals for their respective clubs - has been delayed; firstly by the Englishman being sidelined and then by his deployment in deeper or wider positions when Van Persie has had Javier Hernandez or Danny Welbeck for company in attack.

Yet they were united against Chelsea on Sunday and the expectation is that they will be unleashed together again today.

It is Ferguson's version of shock and awe.

If Arsenal were shocked and United awesome when Wenger's men last visited Old Trafford, it is understandable that Van Persie viewed going north as a step up in the world.

Whether with his artists, such as Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, or his artisans, like Park Ji-sung and Darren Fletcher, Ferguson has established a remarkable supremacy over Wenger.

Even without Van Persie's wand of a left foot, United have won 10 of the last 13 meetings. With it, the balance of power may seem to shift still further in favour of Ferguson.

While the Bergkamp-Henry fusion spearheads the United attack, Arsenal's line may be led by Olivier Giroud.

It is no comparison.


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