Manchester United face Fenerbahce in the Europa League on Thursday, despite the focus of the game being United hopefully picking up three points and trying to take control of Group A, there is a subplot to the game, the return of United hero: Robin van Persie.
Van Persie left Old Trafford in the summer of 2015 under the reign of Louis van Gaal, a move that left many Red’s baffled due to the lack of striking options left at the club as Radamel Falcao also left the club that summer as well as Danny Welbeck the season before. The move was made even more confusing as Van Persie left the club for a minimal fee of £4.5 million. Due to Van Persie’s unexpected departure in 2015 he was never given the reception he deserved from the United fans in his final game for helping secure Premier League number 20 back in 2013, so his return to the Theatre of Dreams should allow fans to give him the farewell that he never received. United will also be the second former team that Van Persie has faced in the Europa League, after already coming up against Feyenoord, but he says that he looking forward coming back to his former club:
“It will be a special occasion and a special game for me. I know Manchester United want to be in the Champions League, but it is how it is now and for me it is a very special group in the Europa League. In the last match, I had a game against one of my first teams, Feyenoord, and next it’s United. I am looking forward to it.”
Many United fans still hold Van Persie in high regard for his service to the club over three challenging seasons where he played under three different managers and looked impressive under all three. He clearly still holds the club close to his heart as he refers to Old Trafford as home, although he does admit that he’s now playing against United and will want to play well and bring the win back to Turkey.
“I am now playing for Fenerbahce and I want to do well for my team but of course it will be special to play ‘at home’ [Old Trafford] in a great stadium with great fans against a great team. It will be tough for us. United are the favourites, but you never know what will happen. In general I am looking forward to a nice evening and enjoying the whole experience.”
Thursday night should bring some good football to Old Trafford and I for one am excited about the return of Van Persie. Van Persie has brought me some of my favourite United memories in recent seasons, including the thunderous volley against Aston Villa to win the title back in 2013, and the hat-trick against Olympiacos to try to rescue David Moyes’ disastrous season in 2014. Van Persie should get a good reception upon his return and I can’t wait to be there, singing “Oh Robin van Persie” one last time.