03 February 2014

van Persie pondering a return to Arsenal? Please...

Watching the slow-motion train-wreck that is Man U's season has brought more than its fair share of joys. I'm petty enough to say so out loud. I don't hold anything against David "Moe Szyslak" Moyes for wanting his big chance at Man U. Honestly. I have about the same feelings towards him as I do towards cereal that's sat too long in milk. A part of me regrets the waste, but most of me just thinks, "it was just cereal" and I move on with my life.

As to van Persie, I'm happy to say, I'm a lot closer to that cereal feeling than I am to the seething cauldron of  volcanic, bilious rage and spite I felt back when he first announced that the "little boy inside him" told him to got Man U. I've made my peace with it. In fact, in the long run, his departure has made us a stronger squad all around. No longer do we look to him to deliver an exquisite goal. No longer do we quite need him to. In his absence, other players have found themselves and have started to become the players we've long hoped they'd become, whether it's Ramsey or Wilshere or Walcott (struck down by injury though he may be). We relied on him, and for one glorious season, it was almost worth it. Then, of course, he bolted.

Now that things ain't working out so good over at Old Trafford, the grass is not the cash is looking a little greener back here at Ashburton Grove, and van Persie is green with envy. 15 points behind us, five points off the pace for a Europa League spot, and seven off the pace for a Champions League spot. It's been a season full of firsts at Old Trafford, what with Everton, Stoke, and Newcastle winning there for the first time in decades (40 years for Newcastle) and Swansea's first-ever victory there. Van Persie's injuries have played a role, to be sure, and there are two reasons to worry about that.

One, of course, is that he's actually injured. Long prone to injuries, this Glass Joe is now 30 (31 in August) and is looking increasingly brittle. He's missed 17 matches across all competitions so far this season and looks set to make his fewest number of appearances since 2010. Two, just as worrying if not more so, is his apparent mentality. Moyes himself admits as much, saying  "I have taken Robin’s advice where he feels he is at. I ask him if he is ready to play and how long does he feel he is able to play." Now, of course, this is what managers and players do. They check in to assess fitness. However, in this case, the relationship smells of one in which the player has deigned not to play. He went missing for ten matches with a pulled hamstring, a stretch that saw Man U get dumped from the FA Cup and league cup while falling off the pace in the Prem. Whether the injury was that severe or whether van Persie simply didn't feel like playing, the conclusion we should draw is the same: we can't rely on him if the going gets tough.

Then again, we've known that for a while. When he left, the man showed his true colors, and that's that.

In the past two seasons, we could sometimes be guilty of looking back and wondering, wistfully, "what if..." What if Cesc had stayed? What if van Persie had stayed? We've spent a good deal of time looking back and wishing things might have turned out differently, and a part of this "would we welcome van Persie back?" derives from the form he showed for one season. The nostalgia is understandable, but don't forget the present, one in which we're top of the table and are one of three clubs contending for the championship. We're no longer scrabbling to climb up to or hold onto fourth place. We're in a position that allows us to fight for the full meal and let the crumbs fall from the table to Man U or Tottenham or Newcastle.

Let's enjoy that for what it's worth, and stop worrying about what was and what might have been. See ya, Robbo. Thanks for the memories and so on.