It’s not the first time now, is it.
Andrew Cole from Newcastle United. Dwight Yorke from Aston Villa. Eric Cantona from Leeds United. Even Dimitar Berbatov from Tottenham Hotspurs. How about Louis Saha from Fulham. Sir Alex Ferguson has long been in the habit of buying the best striker in the Premiership that was not yet at Manchester United. And by best, I mean in terms of scoring goals. All these were prolific goal scorers by the time they joined Manchester United. It meant that United would never be in a position to lose the Premiership on goal difference. In fact, it never came down to this. The goals that these strikers provided meant that the Premiership would be wrapped up on other fronts long before goal difference would come into consideration.
Events of last season however turned everything on its head. Manchester City had a better strike force and thus scored more goals. In the end, the Premiership was lost on goal difference.
Sir Alex had to react. And react he has. Robin Van Persie, the most prolific goal scorer in the Premiership last season. In fact, the most prolific goal scorer in England in the last two seasons. 48 goals in two seasons (although in reality, it’s one and a half seasons). He provides assists as well. In the last three seasons, his total of goals and assists amounts to 80. This is second only to Wayne Rooney, whose total amounts to 82.
Now, the two will be lining up together. What a mouth watering prospect.
But it’s not as easy as it sounds. As everyone has pointed out, Van Persie is 29 years old. As everyone has pointed out, he is injury prone. And as everyone has pointed out, he only had just one and a half prolific seasons at Arsenal. He might not really be that good, if consistency is to be taken into account. And time, as well as his fragile body, are not on his side.
Other questions arise too. What impact will he have on the squad seeing as he is apparently an irreplaceable and assured starter? What happens to Shinji Kagawa, bought at the beginning of the transfer window, and whose favoured position is playing behind the striker? What happens to the likes of Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez, who’d worked hard to earn their place in the team at the huge expense of Dimitar Berbatov. What then happens to their confidence now. And there is also the burning question about the suspect midfield. Left back is also a problem, with Patrice evra’s form of late deteriorating at the rate of King Louis XVI’s decline in popularity. Van Persie may be left footed, but it’s not as if United are going to stick him in at left back?
With all these questions in tow, the bigger question is, did Manchester United really need another striker. Did they really need Robin Van Persie?
It is in times like these that I wish I had the power of foresight like Prometheus, or Nostradamus. I would have peeked into the future, and told you the answer. But I do not. And while the former is a creature of Greek mythology, the latter died centuries ago. I am thus nonetheless wiser as to what will actually happen, and just like everybody else must rely on the passing of time to have that question answered.
What I do know however is that of the people in this world whose intuition I have come to learn to never doubt, Sir Alex is one of them. He would not have pursued Robin Van Persie so publicly and admirably if he did not have a plan in mind. He of all people is best suited to handle the potential selection headache that Van Persie brings to his squad. He will know what to do.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that this Old Scot of knightly realm never gets it wrong. I am just saying that he rarely does.
And these are the conditions in which he rarely gets it wrong. When everyone thinks he’s lost the plot. When everyone is asking how he will react to Manchester City’s blue tsunami wave. These are the moments he loves. These are the moments he relishes.
And you cannot deny that outside all this questions, Robin Van Persie adds quality to Manchester United’s strike force. Him and Rooney together upfront looks a threatening combination on paper. Football games however are won on the pitch, and not on paper. It is however a good place to start.
It is said that at the end of last season, when United players sat quietly in the dressing room at the Stadium of Light, armed with the knowledge that Sergio Aguero had broken their hearts, Sir Alex stood to speak. He told them to remember that moment. Remember how the Sunderland fans took malicious pride in their great misfortune. Remember how it felt like so that next time, you don’t give them a reason to gloat at Manchester United again.
Maybe, just maybe, signing Robin Van Persie is Sir Alex’s way of ensuring that in the 2012-2013 season, nobody gloats at Manchester United again.