Even Wenger, to his credit, had called on Arsenal fans to respect and appreciate their up-until-recent hero: “I hope the reception is a respectful one because he did very well for us for eight years. We campaign against discrimination. That was the case last week so why should it not be the case this week?”
An hour before kick-off, with only members of the press and a few thousand United fans in attendance, Arsenal’s travelling fans opened their set-list of songs designed to bate their old hero as stadium announcer Alan Keegan read the team sheet. It made Robin's reluctance to criticise his former club or their fans after the match all the more admirable.
“I think it speaks for itself,” van Persie declared when asked why he didn’t celebrate his goal. “I played there for eight years. I had a fantastic time and I respect the fans, the players, the manager and the whole club. So that’s why. It was a special day but in the end it is about the game, which we won so I am pleased with that.”
This was a classy response from a proper professional whose bold, yet simple, decision to swap Arsenal for United was completely vindicated on Saturday. Thank the footballing gods, then, that van Persie is a Red and will remain so for the long, foreseeable future.