How United signed van Nistelrooy and van Persie
Sir Alex Ferguson made some spectacular signings during his managerial career but two of his best captures were deadly Dutch strikers Ruud van Nistelrooy and Robin van Persie.
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Robin was different, a proven Premier League predator, who had matured into one of the division’s top players at Arsenal. He was coming up for 29 and the problem was the competition for his signature. Manchester City’s fans were so convinced he would follow Gael Clichy, Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor and Samir Nasri in trading the Emirates for the Etihad that they chanted his name during a game between the clubs.As van Persie rejected attempts to extend his contract with the Gunners, it left the Londoners fearing losing their talisman for nothing in the following summer. Juventus showed real interest and hoped they would be in a better position to do business with Arsene Wenger’s side. It took the personal touch from Ferguson to get the deal done.
”It was a difficult one,” Sir Alex told Inside United, the official club magazine, at the time. “Understandably, Arsene didn't want to sell to Manchester United. If you look at the last 25 years, apart from when I first came down, since the day Arsenal won the league in 1989, right up to today, we've been really big rivals to each other - whether it's been George Graham or Arsene Wenger. It wouldn't be easy for Wenger to accept the player wanted to come to us.
"It took a bit of time but the player wanted to come. I think that was the key to it all and that opened the door for us. He told the other clubs he didn't want to play for them, he wanted to play for Manchester United. So, in that sense, it made it a little bit easier for us in terms of the negotiations but Arsene was still wanting top dollar and he fought hard to get the price he got, which I think was a good price for them.
"It was the first time I've had to speak to a manager for a long while," added the boss. "When I first came down, the old way of doing things was I'd phone the manager to negotiate and the two chairmen or secretaries would get together to finalise it. Those days are gone now. I suppose with the advent of agents' involvement in deals, I'll quite happily sit out of it because I can't be bothered with it. Our chief executive David Gill does all that now, you know, but in this situation I think the phone call to Arsene helped.”Van Persie put pen to paper and spoke of the ‘little boy’ inside him screaming to join United and made clear the time was right to start winning personal honours, without openly ever criticising his former club. “I am looking forward to following in the footsteps of so many great strikers,” he said. “Bringing my experience and playing my part to help the team compete for the biggest trophies in the game.”
It proved to be just the tonic after losing out to City for the title in the dying seconds of the previous campaign. “Yes, there was a general uplift in terms of the mood of the place,” agreed the boss. “The players were saying it's brilliant. At the end of the day, if you've got better players than the rest, you're going to get at least better results than the rest. As I say, if we can integrate that really top player into the framework of the team and the work ehthic of the team, we should be okay.” He was right. Van Persie was the main man as the Reds won our 20th title in the manager’s final season in charge.
Two brilliant strikers.
Two outstanding pieces of transfer business by Sir Alex and United.
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