Robin Van Persie once said, “I'll always be a Gunner.” Perhaps he didn't agree with the capitalization of the “g.” In the last four seasons, RVP has played the role of death and taxes in the Barclays Premier League. Every game he plays he scores. At least it seems that way.
Van Persie single-handedly kept Arsenal in the Champions League while the North London club trudged through a remarkable trophy-less run. The Gunners haven't won silverware since 2005. They also haven't finished outside of the top four. It's the case of good is no longer good enough. But with RVP playing the way he was, Arsenal's fans had every right to think that success was coming. Their young players continued to develop, and they could feasibly count on scoring at least one goal in every contest.
The Dutch striker, though, didn't have the patience for a constant rebuild. The promise of trophies is much better than the promise of potential. In the summer of 2012, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger felt he had no choice but to sell Van Persie. To make matters worse, he sold him to the hated Manchester United.
Van Persie drove a stake through the heart of Gooners everywhere. He scored 26 goals for the Red Devils as Man U cruised to the league title. Two of them came against his former club.
On Sunday, United welcomed Arsenal to Old Trafford in a role-reversal situation. The Red Devils have gotten off to the kind of start that is all too familiar to Arsenal fans. Before Sunday's match, they sat eighth in the table. Arsenal, on the other hand, has been on top of the league for nearly three months.
It was Man U who claimed all three points. Wayne Rooney was brilliant for United as was Phil Jones. Both players worked tirelessly to rob the vaunted Arsenal midfield of Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey of time and space. Rooney was a nuisance for the entire 90 minutes, running end line to end line. Jones roamed just ahead of the back four and not only thwarted Arsenal's attack, but started several United counterattacks as well. New manager David Moyes mentioned in the pre-match that winning the midfield was paramount to the Red Devils' success. His strategy worked and could provide a blueprint on how to slow down the Gunners. Win the midfield by closing it down. Arsenal had no answer.
Forget about tactics for a minute. Robin Van Persie won this game. His header on a Rooney corner kick gave United a first-half lead they wouldn't relinquish.
The goal itself is nothing special, but the man who scored it is. Van Persie needs half a chance to put the ball in the net. Perhaps no striker in Europe understands finishing better than RVP. Manchester United fans know it. Arsenal fans know it.
The loss isn't devastating to the Gunners' title hopes. They still hold a two-point lead over Liverpool and sit five points ahead of United. But the team is in need of a statement win. Beating Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund in a span of four days, as Arsenal did this week, is a worthy accomplishment. But a victory over Van Persie and United was supposed to be the icing on the cake, closure on a relationship gone sour. They'll have another opportunity February 11. Until, Van Persie is still winning the breakup.
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