When Robin Van Persie completed his hat-trick on Sunday not only did he ensure that his manager would celebrate his 1000th league game in charge of Manchester United with a win, he also confirmed that Sir Alex Ferguson has still an eye for a good transfer coup.
Since the Dutchman signed from Arsenal less than a month ago many speculated, perhaps rightly, that he wasn’t what United desperately needed if they were to wrestle the title back from City’s hands and have a real shot at reaching the final stages of the Champions League.
United craved, and still do, a central midfielder. For some the player should be a replacement for Paul Scholes – hence the half-hearted and ultimately vain pursuit of Luka Modric this summer and Wesley Snejider twelve months ago – while for others such player should be in the mould of Yaya Tourè – hard to come by as they are – to provide a physical presence in the middle of the park and prevent more imposing teams from bullying United in such a crucial area of the pitch.
Fergie, though, had none of it, declaring himself perfectly happy with the signing of Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell and, when the cries for a lack of activity in the transfer window grew deafeningly loud, he decided to splash £24m on last year top scorer – a move by many deemed far from essential.
A bit like going shopping for bread, milk and eggs and come back with a sirloin steak – tasty and appetising that it might be, a necessity it isn’t.
While all of these doubts still ring true as United have looked far from convincing in midfield so far this season, only two games and a bit into his United career RVP has already justified the investment, in the way, one suspect, was in Ferguson’s mind when he set out to get his man.
Forget about the superb finish against Fulham and even about his match-winning heroics at St’ Mary’s, the Dutchman has completely galvanised United – players and fans alike – since his arrival at Old Trafford.
Even among those United supporters who were left frustrated by what they perceive to be a stubborn act of denial as Sir Alex refused to land a midfielder were brimming with excitement at the news of Van Persie’s arrival at the club, unfazed by his injury record.
While the former Arsenal striker might not have calmed fears about the quality and depth in United’s engine room, he certainly infused optimism among the fans – a vast majority of them, at least – as much as he did within the team itself, for United hadn’t signed a world class player in many, many years – because of a policy of nurturing players as much as for a lack of funds and deplorable strategies.
Van Persie’s new teammates were quick to welcome him and endorse what his signing meant for the club – a huge psychological boost ensured by having a proven talent in their ranks.
That is not to say that United didn’t invest well last season – De Gea, Jones and Smalling could prove to be far more important signings for United’s long-term future than they look now – but sometimes the psychological impact provided by a new signing is as important to the team and the fans as his contribution on the pitch.
For that reason comparing the signing of Van Persie to the ones of Ronaldo and Rooney is wrong, as both of them were signed as raw teenagers because of their potential rather than to be a ready-to-use product, and while Berbatov was already a player of proven Premier League experience, his style differs a great deal from the Dutchman’s.
United still need to strengthen their midfield, but with RVP Fergie has bolstered his attacking options and sent a strong message to his players and to the fans.
Whether it’ll be enough to regain the title, only time will tell.