Robin's reaction to guard of honour
Robin van Persie has revealed how uncomfortable he felt when given a guard of honour by his former Arsenal team-mates after Manchester United won the title in 2013.
The former Netherlands international was part of the United side that was applauded out onto the pitch before a 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium, six days after Robin’s spectacular hat-trick against Aston Villa had secured a 20th league crown, with our top scorer netting again from the spot.
Speaking on the latest episode of UTD Podcast, which you can listen to in full now, van Persie said he respected the tradition of honouring the champions - which dates back to the 1950s, when United did it for Chelsea - but admitted that, on this occasion, his past with the Gunners made the situation awkward.
“I didn’t like it. Some of them were my friends, I spent eight years there and I was just happy that it was over,” van Persie told us.
“I could see in their faces that they didn’t like it, which I get. And then you see me walking there, I was just happy that it was over.
“I think it’s a nice gesture to do towards the champions, but it just didn’t feel right, not for me and not for Arsenal. It was a little bit awkward there, so I didn’t feel really comfortable about that.
“From my point of view, it didn’t need to happen. Okay, it’s part of the rules and, from the basics, I did like it but not that particular day.”
Van Persie’s transfer from north London to Manchester in the summer of 2012 has gone down as one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s finest moves in the market, as the Dutch forward fired home 26 goals to win his first league title and claim the Golden Boot for a second consecutive season.
The first of those top-scorer awards had come at Arsenal, where Robin spent almost a decade competing against the Reds for domestic and continental glory.
Although Robin netted four times in 14 games against United, he spoke about how tough it was going face-to-face with Sir Alex’s highly experienced and driven side during his eight years in the capital.
“We always had the feeling that we were in the game, playing well and suddenly we were one or two behind,” Robin recalls. “That was with United having fast players like [Cristiano] Ronaldo or Nani.
“After the game, we lost 1-0 or 2-0, but we were thinking we are better. That was our view, but most of the time we were losing, from counter-attacks, corner-kicks. So we knew where we should improve, but it was just tough against these guys.
“They had winners who knew how to win and knew how to defend. In my later years, I was playing against Rio [Ferdinand] and Jonny [Evans] and Vida [Nemanja Vidic] and John O’Shea was there as well. So all proper defenders. It’s possible that was the difference.
“These guys give everything they have to block a ball or defend a shot or, as a team, to defend corners. It was always very difficult to score against Manchester United.”
Arguably the nadir of Robin’s time at the Emirates came at the beginning of his final campaign with the Gunners.
Arsene Wenger’s men travelled to Old Trafford having failed to score in their opening two league games and were soon put to the sword by the rampant Reds in an 8-2 demolition.
Van Persie missed a penalty in that game and, although he later scored a consolation for the Gunners, it’s not a memory he wants to dwell on for too long: “Ouch! Oh my God, that was painful!
“I think United played really well, but every shot went in. I missed a penalty that game, when it was still close and you think ‘oh no!’
“After that, every single shot went in. It was painful. We couldn’t really compete at that time and to lose 8-2 in the end…
“I think I did nick one goal, so it was good for the stats in the end, but it was a tough day at the office. After the game, everyone was down obviously.”
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