In our latest instalment of the Flashback series, we take a look back at a certain moment and look at how things might have changed those initial reactions.
How times change. Once the all-conquering duo of the Premier League, few would argue against Manchester United and Arsenal’s rivalry being among the fiercest in the modern era.
As they went head-to-head once again this week in what was describing as looking and feeling like a mid-table clash by Guardian journalist Jonathan Wilson, perhaps now would be an appropriate time to recall a player who has arguably given both clubs some of their happier memories of the past few years.
Robin van Persie, a Premier League Golden Boot winner for both clubs, made a sensational move to Old Trafford in 2012 that would have done little to quell the animosity between the two clubs, previously borne out of titanic title tussles, fights and fracas, tantrums in the tunnel and pizzas-turned-paper planes.
Signing for United for £24m after listening to ‘the little boy inside’, Van Persie was undoubtedly an instant hit at Old Trafford, scoring 30 times in his first campaign as Sir Alex Ferguson got one over on Manchester City to deliver a final league title before retiring.
His league-clinching hat-trick (including Match of the Day’s Goal of the Season) will surely remain a memorable moment, with the victory securing United’s 20th title as they pulled further clear as England’s undisputed premier side.
He was just as devastating at Arsenal despite a lack of silverware to show for it – though the Dutchman did pick up an FA Cup winners’ medal at the expense of his future employers, netting a penalty in the shootout that would mark a barren spell for the Gunners in terms of trophies.
Van Persie’s 132 Arsenal goals put him in some impressive company in North London, usurping the total of his legendary compatriot and teammate Dennis Bergkamp in becoming one of just 19 players to record triple figures for the Gunners.
The contrast is stark to nowadays, as both clubs were left to settle for places in the Europa League last year with the duo occupying the fifth and sixth positions for the second time in three seasons.
With that in mind, it could be argued that not only were Arsenal and United’s better years enjoyed during Van Persie’s respective stints at either club – but neither team have been able to claw their way back to the heights of their ‘RVP’ eras or those that preceded the arrival of the Flying Dutchman.
What are your memories of Van Persie? What would he have achieved at Arsenal had he not moved to United? Let us know in the comments below!Like what the TT have on offer? Sign up for more notifications!