United sign RVP for £24m in major coup for Fergie


Sir Alex Ferguson was last night celebrating a major transfer market victory over his biggest rivals after Arsenal finally relented to selling Robin van Persie to Manchester United for about £24m.

The move is the biggest coup yet of the summer transfer window and re-establishes United's position in English football after losing the title to Manchester City in such dramatic fashion last season.

Roberto Mancini, the City manager, failed to convince his board to move for the Dutch international, 29, who announced last month that he would not be negotiating to renew his contract at the Emirates Stadium, with his existing deal heading into its final 12 months.

That alone rocked Arsenal's manager, Arsène Wenger, who believed the bond he had established with the player since he signed him eight years ago from Feyenoord would be enough to convince him to stay.

However, the player's statement to the contrary strengthened Ferguson's desire to sign Van Persie, who scored 34 goals in English football last season, and the manager has spent the summer trying to bridge the gap between the clubs.

Wenger had insisted that the player would not leave for less than £30m, but Manchester United's final offer is believed to be nearer the £20m that was set aside for the forward. It could rise to £24m.

Wenger had also favoured Van Persie moving to Juventus, who lodged a £10m bid at the start of the summer. Ferguson spoke to Wenger on Monday in an attempt to broker a deal that the Frenchman was always reluctant to agree to, and talks developed quickly between the two clubs yesterday.

The player had privately set his heart on the move to Old Trafford that was on the brink of completion last night when both Arsenal and Manchester United released statements saying a fee had been agreed. Van Persie was due to head straight from the Netherlands' friendly in Brussels against Belgium last night for his medical in Manchester today. Manchester United are believed to have prepared a deal that, including image rights, will land the player near to the £200,000-a-week salary he wanted over the course of a five-year contract.

Van Persie will become the first player to move directly to Old Trafford from Arsenal since Viv Anderson 25 years ago. He is also the latest in a succession of big names to leave the Emirates, following the departures of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Gaël Clichy. There could be a further loss, with Barcelona still chasing Alex Song, who has admitted being flattered by the interest of the Catalan giants.