The signing of Robin Van Persie from Arsenal has sent a ripple effect through the rest of the league and, before a ball has even been kicked, Fergie has struck the first blow in this season’s title race. Whether or not the Dutchman proves as prolific as he did last season, his impact on Manchester United’s squad can already be felt.
Rio Ferdinand put it most succinctly this Friday when he said, “[It] isn’t always about who you bring in, it’s about shaking up the changing room.” Never a truer word spoken, and a special nod towards Wayne Rooney was implicit in that comment.
Two years ago, Rooney put United fans through hell when he questioned the ambitions of the club and agitated for a tranfer to Manchester City. This Monday, he will line up alongside a man who turned down our cross city rivals and outscored Rooney himself last season. The Toxteth-terrier can no longer be guaranteed his place in the side.
It is a signing reminiscent of another coup of the Ferguson era. The signing of Eric Cantona from Leeds in 1992. I was at the United match at Stamford Bridge not long after his arrival and there was a swagger about United’s play that hadn’t been seen for some time. Although the valiant attempts of people like Michael Phelan to perform flicks and backheels were more endearing than breathtaking, the message was clear. Everybody had stepped up their game to prove themselves to the new guy. The same can be expected of United over the coming months.
Much has been made about the embarrassment of riches United have up front, but in some ways this simply puts us on the same footing as Real Madrid and Barcelona. The great boon is the psychological effect this could have on Rooney and Van Persie.
To a large extent, both players carried the goalscoring loads of their teams last year. Rooney has indeed flourished since the departure of Ronaldo, but he has so much more to offer than as a simple marksman. Van Persie will allow him to roam more freely around the pitch and dart in from the left as he used to. The Dutchman may simply enjoy being part of a partnership and less of a one-man show.
The rest of United’s playing staff are lining up to welcome the new signing with welcome arms. Michael Carrick, who was exceptional for England in midweek, and Danny Welbeck are both on record as saying they look forward to playing with the new recruit, and a lithmus test of the dressing room reveals more positive feedback from others.
After last season’s 6-1 defeat it seemed the world had ended, but in this signing United have responded, and decisively. Much is made around the club of ‘doing things properly’ and ‘playing the Manchester United ‘way’. Have Manchester City improved this summer? Possibly. Have Chelsea? Certainly not. Have Manchester United? You betcha. And we are playing to win.
Follow Mark on twitter.com/markjpayne