Robin van Persie, Manchester United’s last 30 goal striker

In a transfer saga that dragged out across the summer of 2012, the news broke in mid-August that Arsenal’s star striker Robin van Persie would be signing for Manchester United. Despite being heavily linked with Manchester City who had recently been crowned Premier League champions, Van Persie opted to go with the red side of Manchester. In a move that would see the Dutchman go on to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s most influential signing since the arrival of Eric Cantina in 1992 from Leeds United.

After putting in a string of great performances and showing great promise at Feyenoord, Van Persie first arrived in Premier League in 2004 singing for Arsenal at the ripe age of 20. Van Persie spent eight seasons with the Gunners, making 278 first team appearances, netting 132 goals and going on to captain the side in 2011. A season that would see him get his highest Premier League goal tally to date and pick up the prestigious golden boot award after scoring an incredible 30 goals.

As his eighth season at Arsenal drew to close and still with no major trophies to his name, Van Persie announced he would not be singing a new Arsenal contract. Throughout Ferguson’s 27-year tenure at Manchester United, he tended to follow a firm policy of buying young players to develop in to future stars oppose to buying ready-made superstars. However, with the Premier League’s best striker keen to move away from Arsenal.

Ferguson had no choice but to ditch this policy, signing Van Persie for £24 million with the pair uniting with an unquenchable desire to win. This signing sent out a huge statement of intent to their fierce rivals City, who had not only been interested in gaining the Dutchman’s signature but had just won the league against United on goal difference. The arrival of Van Persie at Old Trafford showed City that United were not only ready to compete with them in terms of firepower but were ready to win back the Premier League.

Ferguson’s decision to sign the superstar striker did not disappoint with Van Persie making an intimate impact at United, scoring his first goal in a 3-2 Victory against Fulham in his second appearance for the club. From that moment on Van Persie never looked back and had an absolutely exceptional first season. Featuring in all 38 of United Premier League matches, the Dutchman’s season was littered with moments of dazzling brilliance.

Netting a hat-trick against Southampton as United battled back from 2-1, scoring the winning penalty against Liverpool, picking up goals against Chelsea and his former club Arsenal and of course scoring his famous injury-time free-kick to win the Manchester Derby. With Van Persie leading the line and firing on all fronts United soon surged to the top of the league and with United finishing the season 11 points clear of Manchester City.

Van Persie finished the season with 26 league goals, winning the golden boot for the second year running scoring 30 goals in all competitions.  No United player has managed to hit the 30 goals mark in a single season since. With Zlatan Ibrahimović coming closest and scoring 28 goals in the 2016/17 season, and Romelu Lukaku also getting close with his 27 goals tally this season. Yet Van Persie still remains the last United player to manage 30 goals in a single season and holds the record for the most goals scored in a debut season.

Following Ferguson’s retirement at the end of the 2012/13 title-winning campaign, Van Persie was never able to hit the heights of his incredible debut season. Plagued by injuries the Dutchman struggled for fitness and consistency.  With both David Moyes and Louis Van Gal unable to get any real goalscoring form out of the Dutchman, managing only 10 goals. In the 2014/15 campaign, before being sold to Fenerbahce in the summer of 2015 for an undisclosed fee.

Despite not being able to make much of an impact in his final two seasons at Old Trafford, Robin Van Persie’s contribution to Manchester United in the 2012/13 title-winning season will live long in the minds and the hearts of United fans everywhere.

Written by Jamie Mackinlay

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