ArsÃ¨ne Wenger has reluctantly agreed to sell Robin van Persie to Manchester United for Â£23m. Arsenal confirmed on Wednesday that a deal had been tied up between the clubs and that the striker will travel to Manchester for a medical and to agree personal terms.
The clubs reopened negotiations over the striker on Tuesday night, after which it was merely a question of when Van Persie became a United player. Sir Alex Ferguson feels the 29-year-old could be the signing to help United wrest the Premier League title back from Manchester City.
Wenger had done his best to persuade Van Persie to stay and he was loth to sanction his release to United. But he has admitted defeat as Van Persie has been adamant he wants to leave.
Arsenal’s manager, asked on Wednesday night on French TV whether he would buy another striker, said: “We have already replaced him in buying [Lukas] Podolski and [Olivier] Giroud. We are sad to lose a player of his quality but he had one year left on his contract so we had no choice.”
Van Persie made his intentions plain with a statement on 4 July, when he said he wanted to win trophies and that he and the club “in many aspects disagree on the way Arsenal FC should move forward”. He has forced the club’s hand by refusing to extend his contract, which has less than 12 months to run. Arsenal did not want to lose him as a Bosman free agent.
The Arsenal statement said: “[We] can confirm that terms have been agreed for the transfer of Robin van Persie to Manchester United. Van Persie will travel to Manchester in order to agree personal terms and complete a medical ahead of the proposed move.”
Arsenal have dug in to get their minimum Â£20m asking price. Before they departed for their pre-season tour of Asia on 21 July, to which Van Persie did not travel, the club had received bids from United, City and Juventus, none of which was for more than Â£15m.
Ferguson complained last Wednesday that United were getting nowhere with Arsenal in their negotiations, although he added that they would “persevere and hope things come our way”. United returned to indicate that they would pay rather more than their initial Â£15m bid.
On Wednesday United posted a statement on their website saying that “a further announcement will be made” once the medical is completed and personal terms have been agreed.
It has helped United that Van Persie has been eager to join. He is excited at the prospect of playing with Wayne Rooney, who has spoken of his admiration for Van Persie. “He’s a fantastic player,” Rooney said. “He’s been amazing for Arsenal over many years. If he does come here, he would be a great additionto the squad.”
Van Persie, moreover, buys heavily into United’s tradition and playing style, whereas he is less keen on how City have spent lavishly to accumulate under the Abu Dhabi United Group. He was receptive to the idea of going to Juventus, although he had reservations about Serie A.
On Wednesday night United’s midfielder Michael Carrick spoke of his excitement at Van Persie’s impending arrival. “If it goes through, it will be brilliant,” he said. “He had a terrific season and he will further strengthen our squad. It is a great boost going into the new season. He is a world-class player and we have always been about bringing in players of that ability.
“Can it make the difference between second and first? There wasn’t much difference so hopefully we can go that step further.
“But the club has always had strength in depth and it is about the squad and not the 11 on the pitch.”
Arsenal may find it slightly easier to have sold their star player this summer as they have already signed reinforcements. The strikers Podolski and Giroud have arrived for a combined Â£24m while the attacking midfielder Santi Cazorla has been signed for Â£12m.
Ivan Gazidis, the Arsenal chief executive, described the capture of Podolski as “critical” while Cazorla’s signing has created a buzz in the dressing room. Last summer the club did not plan adequately for the departures of Cesc FÃ¡bregas and Samir Nasri and were forced into a late sweep of the market.
Van Persie has trained with Arsenal this summer and he played as a substitute in Sunday’s 4-0 friendly win away to FC KÃ¶ln, even taking the captain’s armband when he came on. His involvement polarised debate among the travelling fans.
He was in Brussels on Wednesday night for Holland’s friendly against Belgium
but he is out of favour with his new national team manager, Louis van Gaal, who has told him that Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is the first choice striker in his 4-3-3 formation.
“Huntelaar has always performed well for Holland while Van Persie hasn’t,” Van Gaal said. “Robin is my second man after Klaas-Jan. I don’t see Van Persie in another position [other than striker] and for him, it’s important that there is clarity as soon as possible over where he will be playing in the next season. I had to tell Van Persie that his situation with the national team had changed and my preference was for Huntelaar. I had a tremendous meeting with him on both a personal and technical level. It was one of the best discussions that I’ve ever had with a player.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010