Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson would be surprised if Robin van Persie was not given a warm reception by Arsenal fans this weekend. The prolific Dutchman is poised to face his former club for the first time since joining United in a £24million summer deal as the Gunners visit Old Trafford in the Premier League tonight.
Van Persie scored 37 goals for the Londoners last season but, with his contract running down, opted not to renew and the club sold to their rivals. The 29-year-old has since made a fine start at United, scoring nine times in 12 appearances. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has said Van Persie, who was brought to England from Feyenoord by the Gunners in 2004, deserves respect and Ferguson agrees.
Ferguson said: “I think Arsene has laid his seed for his supporters in terms of respecting him. I think, if you think about all the former players who have come back to Old Trafford, they always get a warm applause. “I don’t think he’ll have a problem tomorrow. I think the fans will recognise the eight years he gave them and I think that will be nice.”
As well as scoring goals, Van Persie has made a good all-round contribution to the United cause and Ferguson thinks he has settled quickly because no acclimatisation was necessary. Ferguson said: “He is a mature player and I think that helps, and the experience he has got playing eight years in England.
“The fact he has played in England makes it easier to go to another English club.
“It has been very satisfying for us. It has been a fantastic start and hopefully he keeps it going.” Van Persie was on target for Arsenal on their forgettable last visit to Old Trafford in August last year, when they were hammered 8-2. Ferguson is certainly not expecting a repeat of that extraordinary scoreline.
He said: “It won’t happen tomorrow, that’s for sure. Having beaten leaders Chelsea last weekend, United, possibly only briefly, could go top of the table with victory in the lunchtime kick-off.