Much of the talk ahead of Saturday’s league meeting with Arsenal had focused on RvP facing his former club for the first time since swapping the Emirates Stadium for Old Trafford in the summer. Undeterred, the 29-year-old remained steely eyed and focused on what he does best - scoring goals and winning matches.
With just three minutes on the clock, the Dutchman pounced on Thomas Vermaelen’s attempted clearance to throw United into an early lead, clipping the ball home with his right foot and self-described “chocolate leg”. Given the media coverage, it was almost inevitable. What wasn’t foreseen, perhaps, was the reaction that followed.
As decibel levels rose around Old Trafford, van Persie held his hands in the air whilst eye-balling the turf. A solemn and almost apologetic gesture, and certainly as deliberate as the finish that preceded it, this was a mark of respect towards his former club, where he spent eight years before a meeting with boss Arsene Wenger and chief executive Ivan Gazidis prompted his departure.
Of course, many have foregone this ritual in the past on an almost weekly basis. The difference, however, is that most of those players left their clubs on good or at least amicable terms, and were not ostracised for wanting to win trophies. On that note, the facts are simple: United are more competitive than Arsenal in every competition.
In his programme notes, Sir Alex hoped for respect from the away end: “I expect their fans are still feeling a little sore after losing Robin to us and if they follow the popular trend their fans will give him a hard time. I hope not, though; I hope they will remember the eight years he gave the Gunners and that he left with pride.” Unfortunately, Sir Alex's hopes were not to be fulfilled.