5 Memorable Robin Van Persie Moments at Manchester United
Manchester United caused quite the stir in the transfer market when the club announced the signing of Arsenal club captain Robin van Persie for around £24million in August 2012. However, the Dutchman has gone on to provide many moments of greatness in his two seasons at Old Trafford.
The fitness issues which plagued him throughout the 2013-2014 campaign, as well as difficulties with David Moyes' system, have rather stifled Van Persie's progress at Old Trafford. However, with incoming manager Louis van Gaal known to have an excellent relationship with the experienced forward, it is likely we will see the best of United's talisman once again next season.
With the future looking bright for both United and Van Persie, it is interesting to take stock of the story so far and ask the question: Just what are the most memorable moments from United's very own flying Dutchman?
No. 5: Old Trafford Debut vs. Fulham
With Robin van Persie's official debut for the club coming just days earlier in a defeat at Goodison Park, it was to be on his Old Trafford bow against Fulham that the Dutchman would truly make his mark.
After falling behind to an early Damien Duff strike, there was a degree of panic around Old Trafford following the aforementioned defeat to Everton. However, with one cultured swing of his left boot, Van Persie brought delirium around the ground as he got his Manchester United career up and running.
A goal that, according to Sir Alex Ferguson when talking to the BBC, "set the place alight" foreshadowed what was to be a historic season for Manchester United.
Whilst in the minority, there were certainly a number of doubters following Van Persie's arrival—with some supporters worried the central midfielder area had been ignored once more—yet the Dutchman's strike instantly turned heads.
Manchester United's new talisman had arrived in typically Dutch style, and with the disappointment of the previous campaign's final day still fresh in the memories of supporters and players alike, it was a boost the club so desperately needed.
The goal itself, which can be seen above, was a beautifully struck half volley from inside the penalty area, which exquisitely used the pace already on Patrice Evra's cross to guide the ball into the far corner. It really was a wonderful example of the technique the former Arsenal skipper possessed and showed the United faithful just what their new signing was capable of.
No. 4: Hat-Trick vs. Olympiakos
At this point of the season Manchester United were in crisis.
Champions League qualification for the 2014-2015 campaign through a top-four finish already looked a near impossibility. Following a 2-0 defeat in Greece to Olympiakos in the first-leg of Manchester United's round-of-16 tie, all hope of qualification for the competition through lifting the trophy in Lisbon appeared to have gone too.
However, Robin van Persie delivered a single-handed masterclass to drag Manchester United into the quarter-final stage of the tournament, with a sublime hat-trick against Olympiakos to overturn the two-goal-deficit at Old Trafford.
After the humbling United received at the hands of the Greeks in the first-leg, as well as the 3-0 defeat to Liverpool just days earlier, there was very little belief that the tide could be turned, particularly with stories of David Moyes' future as manager increasing by the day. Morale at Old Trafford was approaching an all-time low.
After a difficult season up to that point, marred mainly by fitness troubles, Van Persie produced a vintage display. The Dutchman was a threat all evening long, with his elusive movement causing real problems for Olympiakos' central defenders and left-back José Holebas.
This aforementioned movement had tied Holebas in all sorts of knots and the Greek international could do nothing to prevent Van Persie getting on the wrong side of him before conceding a penalty.
Van Persie's second strike was an example of his finisher's instinct. A sharp run across the penalty area confused the defenders and a pin-point Wayne Rooney cross allowed Van Persie the opportunity to tuck the ball in at the near post.
The third and decisive goal was just an example of sheer individual quality. A free-kick just on the edge of Olympiakos' penalty area looked for all the world as if it wouldn't benefit a left-footed player due to the angle to goal. However, Van Persie stepped up and took everyone by surprise by placing the ball into the far corner.
It was the mark of genius that even an unhappy Van Persie had been unable to produce regularly for United throughout the season. However, with a passage to the quarter-final, United supporters were reminded just how good a player they had in the Dutch captain.
No. 3: Penalty in Victory Over Stoke City
After a blistering start to life in Manchester United red, Van Persie had fallen into something of a dry spell with regards to goalscoring following the festive period. The Dutchman had actually gone a period of 10 games without a goal before his penalty against Stoke in April 2013.
With the games coming thick and fast in the title race, a trip to the Britannia was hardly one to be taken lightly—especially when you consider the difficulties teams have faced there in the past.
A rare Michael Carrick strike put United ahead at the Britannia, but it was Van Persie's second-half penalty which assured the three points.
The goal itself was rather routine for a player of Van Persie's ability, yet it was the subsequent celebration which makes this moment all the more memorable.
Van Persie stepped up to take the penalty and coolly slotted the ball into the net, despite the best efforts of the Staffordshire wind, before setting off on a sprint straight towards the dugout where he met an exuberant Sir Alex Ferguson for an embrace, however Ferguson hadn't quite realised the momentum with which his striker was heading towards him.
The veteran Scotsman commented to the Daily Mail,
He nearly killed me. He forgets I'm 71.
But that was a great celebration because it brought the emotions of the fans and the players together.
Everybody could celebrate that.
Often, in years gone by, when a team wins the title there are certain moments, iconic scenes, which suggest a team has found its rhythm and it will be very difficult to take the title away from them.
Manchester United's late victory over Sheffield Wednesday in April 1993. which sparked wild touchline celebrations from Ferguson and Brian Kidd, was one of those moments, as was Arsenal's Thierry Henry-inspired 5-0 victory at Highbury over Leeds United in 2004 on the way to winning the title without losing a match.
Van Persie's embrace with Ferguson was the latest in a long list of those moments. In addition to that, it fully illustrated the togetherness of the United side in a campaign where that was one of the key contributing factors to United taking the title back from Manchester City.
No. 2: Injury-Time Winning Goal in Manchester Derby
If ever there was ever a way to etch your name into Manchester United folklore, then it is by scoring the winning goal against Manchester City after rejecting the chance to sign for them in the first place.
This is exactly what Van Persie did in December 2012, following City's comeback from two goals down.
A soft free-kick was awarded deep into injury-time just on the edge of City's penalty area. As soon as Van Persie stood ominously over the ball, you just had the feeling something memorable was about to happen.
The Dutchman curled the ball past the wall, with the aid of Samir Nasri's right boot, into the far corner of Joe Hart's net, to spark joyful celebration amongst the travelling United support behind the goal.
This moment was vitally important, as it gave Manchester United an edge in the title race with the Reds going six points clear at the summit of the Premier League table.
However, what made this all the more sweet for Manchester United supporters was the interesting back-story which had led Van Persie to United.
It was reported by James Phillips of the Mirror that Van Persie had turned down an offer from Manchester City in order to join United.
At a time when Manchester City could, and possibly still can, offer a far greater financial package to potential new signings than United, Van Persie turning the money down in favour of working with Sir Alex Ferguson felt like a significant victory for sporting history and tradition in the eyes of the Old Trafford faithful, and it endeared Van Persie to the Stretford End rather more quickly than most.
From a wider perspective, this injury-time winning goal gave the United squad the belief that they once more had a true match-winner in their ranks.
Since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009, game-changing players have been few and far between at Old Trafford. But Van Persie was exactly that.
Following the disappointment of losing the title to City the previous season, it would have been easy for United to fold into their shell. But Van Persie wouldn't let that happen and was determined to drag United over the line at times.
The free-kick against Manchester City was, however, only a mere glimpse of the genius which was to follow for the remainder of the season.
No. 1: Hat-Trick vs. Aston Villa/Winning the Premier League
One of the catalysts for Van Persie's wish to leave Arsenal in the summer of 2012 was the lack of progress the club had made in the pursuit of honours.
Of course the club were under significant financial pressure as a result of the move to the Emirates Stadium, which makes Arsene Wenger's achievement in keeping the club in the top four all the more impressive, but the almost annual sale of the club's best player worried Van Persie, and his preferred move to Manchester United was mainly in pursuit of the Premier League title.
After a wonderful season, in which Van Persie had registered 26 league goals, the Dutchman finally got his hands on the trophy he craved the most. A staggering eight years since his last trophy as a player, Van Persie finally had the chance to lift the Premier League trophy with United needing just a victory over Aston Villa to secure the title.
If ever there was a performance to fully illustrate the desire Van Persie had to win the title, then his hat-trick against Villa was surely it.
After an early tap-in from just yards out, Van Persie turned on the style with his second goal of the evening—perhaps going down as one of the all-time great Manchester United goals.
A searching pass from Wayne Rooney from just inside his own half found the run of Van Persie, who had taken full advantage of Ron Vlaar's lack of pace, and the Dutchman duly fired a quite astonishing volley past Brad Guzan into the far corner of the net.
The Guardian's Jamie Jackson reported on Sir Alex Ferguson's public praise for his striker, with the manager labelling the strike, "goal of the century."
It was marvellous – the technique with his head down, over the ball and just perfect timing. It was a magnificent strike.
He is in his mature years and winning the league tonight meant a lot to him.
The volley summed up Van Persie's "fairytale" season, and the Dutchman could barely hide his joy. Upon lifting the trophy, he could barely stifle a childlike giggle before exclaiming of the Premier League trophy, "It's so heavy."
Van Persie will go down as an Old Trafford great, despite joining so late in his career. To play such an important part in a title winning season is something not many players achieve, and with the Louis van Gaal-era about to begin, there is hope United supporters will see a lot more memorable moments from Van Persie.
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