Arsene Wenger must hate August 15.
A year to the very date Cesc Fabregas completed his move to Barcelona, it was confirmed Robin van Persie, Fabregas’ successor as Arsenal captain and talisman is bound for Manchester United.
As Oscar Wilde might put it: To lose one captain might be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.
Van Persie, who was left out of the Netherlands’ friendly with Belgium in Brussels last night, is due in Manchester today for a medical, with only that and personal terms the potential obstacles to the protracted saga being completed for a fee believed to be in the region of a £24 million when add-ons are taken into consideration.
The Dutchman may even feature in United’s opening Premier League game of the season at Everton on Monday night.
The acquisition of van Persie is a huge boost to United’s hopes of wrestling the title off noisy neighbours Manchester City and comes after a summer of transfer frustration for Alex Ferguson who failed in his efforts to sign Eden Hazard and Lucas Moura.
“Manchester United is pleased to announce it has reached agreement with Arsenal Football Club for the transfer of Robin van Persie,” a club statement read last night.
“The deal is subject to a medical and the agreement of personal terms. A further announcement will be made in due course.”
Arsenal issued a simultaneous statement to the same effect.
For Wenger and the Gunners, van Persie’s exit is a hammer blow.
The Dutchman scored 37 goals in all competitions last season, enough to land him both the players’ and football writers’ player of the year awards.
Remarkably, without van Persie’s goal haul, Arsenal, who finished third last season, would have picked up 27 fewer points and finished in a final position of 15th with just 43 points.
However last month, van Persie dropped a bombshell, announcing he would not be extending his contract which had 12 months to run, claiming he and Wenger “in many aspects disagree on the way Arsenal FC should move forward’’.
United responded to van Persie’s statement by lodging a bid for the striker last month, but that was turned down amid further interest from Manchester City and Juventus.
However last weekend City boss Roberto Mancini conceded van Persie would not become the latest Gunner to swap the Emirates for the Etihad Stadium while van Persie made clear he was not interested in a move to Italy.
This came after Ferguson expressed bafflement at Arsenal’s behaviour, stating: “We’re not getting any breakthrough with Arsenal.
“It’s difficult to say why they’re operating this way.’’
But last night that breakthrough finally arrived and United fans can look forward to the tantalising prospect of a partnership between van Persie and Wayne Rooney.
Add Danny Welbeck, Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov into the equation and United will feel they have the firepower to win back the title.
Wenger was loath to sell van Persie to long-time adversary Ferguson but if there is a consolation it comes in the size of the transfer fee, decent business for a 29-year-old with a questionable fitness record — last season was only the third time he broke the 40 game barrier since his arrival from Feyenoord in the summer of 2004.
A further consolation is that, unlike last summer when Wenger was forced into a frantic deadline day trolley dash to sign players to replace Fabregas, Samir Nasri and the injured Jack Wilshere, Arsenal have already strengthened the squad, signing French striker Olivier Giroud, German star Lukas Podolski and Spanish ace Santiago Cazorla.
Some might argue that given Paul Scholes’ and Ryan Giggs’ age, United’s greatest need this summer was a dominant midfielder but Ferguson will feel he now has his most potent attack since the treble winning quartet of Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
August 15 may be a date that sends shivers down Wenger’s spine.
For Ferguson the sensation last night was very different.
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