* Top players want to play with top players
Robin Van Persie is set to leave Arsenal for Manchester United, yet the move is not about money.
The Londoners’ club skipper is heading to Old Trafford because he must believe playing for United will give him a better chance of winning things. And this will hurt Arsenal fans like hell.
Van Persie joined the Gunners in May 2004, with my former club having just completed an entire season without losing a Premier League game.
This was an absolutely superb football team. It was one that was capable of dominating for many seasons.
But, year by year, the top players left. Now the days of Jens Lehmann, Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell, Robert Pires, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira seem a million years ago.
And since arriving from Feyenoord, Van Persie has managed just one trophy at Arsenal the FA Cup. That was seven years ago. It is a massive shame that the Dutchman is becoming the latest star to leave Arsenal, though I am not surprised. If Arsenal supporters are being honest with themselves, they will not be too shocked either. It is the sign of the times.
The three teams who always look capable of winning things these days are United, Manchester City and Chelsea. United won nothing last season and some people claim Alex Ferguson’s side was one of the poorer teams from his time in charge.
Yet still they only lost the league title on goal difference in the last couple of minutes of the campaign.
They will still take some beating in 2012-13 and it is extremely rare for United ever to go more than one season without managing to win at least one trophy.
I hate to see top performers leaving the Emirates and it will now become increasingly difficult for the club to keep their other star names. Remember, Theo Walcott is approaching the last year of his contract and let us hope he signs another in a few weeks.
United, City and Juventus have all been interested in Van Persie but I think he has made the right choice.
City are in an exciting period and could be winning things for years to come.
Yet Van Persie is now 29 and the chance of playing for arguably the biggest club in the world is not an opportunity he wants to waste. Top players want to play with top players — and he will obviously fancy the chance of causing some damage up front with England ace Wayne Rooney.
Ferguson always assembles a squad with a winning mentality and Van Persie, understandably, wants to be a part of that. Last season, he carried Arsenal. You have to wonder where they would have finished without his goals tally of 37. I have a lot of sympathy for manager Arsene Wenger but, ultimately, he makes the decisions in terms of playing and offering of contracts.
Some people are saying Van Persie should have shown more loyalty, after all the injuries he has suffered. But as I have said before, the only loyalty in the game currently comes from the fans and this is something that just has to be accepted.
With the exception of the likes of Chelsea’s John Terry and Ryan Giggs at Manchester United, players no longer remain at one or even two clubs during their career. Arsenal now find themselves in a tough situation.
They have signed players such as Germany striker Lukas Podolski from Cologne, France forward Olivier Giroud from Montpellier and Spain winger Santi Cazorla from Malaga, who, potentially, could all be superb in the Premier League.
But note I am using the word potentially. Wenger needs these players to hit the ground running, though it is possibly too much to expect all three new boys to do this. Fingers crossed, I hope they all succeed in making an immediate impact. Many Gunners supporters will have looked at the fixture list already to find out the dates of the United games.
It is Old Trafford on November 3, which is my birthday, while United will visit the Emirates on April 27.
I do not imagine Van Persie will get a good reception and I am sure that he will not be expecting one.
Unfortunately, Arsenal must once again move on following the departure of a major name.
You can only wonder what they could have achieved if everyone had stayed.
The Sun; Last Updated: 17th August 2012