Manchester City beware – Robin van Persie signing is equivalent of Manchester United's Eric Cantona coup

Van Persie signing is statement of intent from United that kills off any lingering Arsenal threat

The treble season; that was the starting point for Sir Alex Ferguson yesterday. When the conversation turns to 1999, and the comparisons are coming from Ferguson himself to the forward line he had at his disposal for that campaign, one that rampaged its way through Europe, the mood at Old Trafford is not difficult to read.

Make no mistake, landing Robin van Persie is right up there with the acquisition of Eric Cantona back in 1992, when winning had become a forgotten art-form for the country's biggest club. A brilliant manager buying a brilliant player will always make sense.

It is three months since Ferguson stood on the pitch at the Stadium of Light on the final day of the season and heard a roar in the far corner of the ground, a noise that told him Manchester City had scored a third goal. His resolve hardened right there in front of those watching.

The rising Japanese player Shinji Kagawa has arrived, Danny Welbeck is close to signing a new contract, and Tom Cleverley is fit again. The first two offer reasons to believe Ferguson's hunger remains as great as ever, but the pursuit and subsequent landing of Van Persie, Arsène Wenger's golden boy, should ring out as a warning to every club side in European football.Lest we forget, Wayne Rooney was ready to leave Old Trafford 19 months ago. Manchester City sensed a possibility of taking their rivals' greatest player, a move that could arguably have been more significant than taking their rivals' title.

Within a week he had signed a five-year deal. Ferguson had flexed his muscle. Now Rooney has Van Persie, the best player in English football, Welbeck, possibly England's next centre-forward, and the livewire Mexican Javier Hernandez to form a quartet which, given time, could compete with the one he spoke so glowingly of.

United with that kind of firepower become a different, more dangerous animal and it is worth remembering that City won the title only by virtue of goal difference. You would be brave to bet on them outscoring their rivals this time, as they attempt to defend English football's top prize for the first time in 44 years, something they have never done successfully.

Some spurious arguments were floating around outside the Emirates Stadium yesterday, most about Van Persie's age – he was 29 nine days ago – and his injury record. In all competitions, including those for his country, Van Persie has played 162 games in the last four seasons, scoring 106 goals and assisting on a further 41. Over a four-year period, he has more or less contributed in some shape or form a goal in every match he has played.

In light of the price paid in recent seasons for those who have flourished in the Premier League, just over £20m is not a great amount, and that it has weakened Arsenal is undeniable.

In one move, Ferguson has cleared out 39 per cent of Arsenal's goals. Last season Arsenal scored 96 times in all competitions and Van Persie was responsible for 37 of them. It is a huge setback for Arsenal and Wenger, and their role now is defined in the current era of the Premier League; they are now nothing more than a feeder club. No wonder Wenger lauds himself for Champions League qualification, for that now is an achievement. Arsenal won the Premier League three times in six years, starting in 1998, during a golden period and it is improbable that those times will return.

The revolving door takes talent out of the Emirates Stadium and the demoralising list in recent seasons goes from Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Gaël Clichy, all the way through to Van Persie. Alex Song could be next, with Barcelona ready to make their move. Next summer, if Jack Wilshere comes through a campaign without further problems, you would not be surprised to see Ferguson really rub his rivals' noses in it with a move for him.

Nobody has stood up to Manchester United in the Premier League quite like Arsenal, certainly not for as long, but theirs is the bit-part role now, they are the subplot, desperate to scrap for local supremacy, but little more. Indeed, losing one of your stars is careless, but two, as Arsenal and Spurs look set to with Luka Modric heading to Real Madrid, is beyond careless. These were clubs who said they wanted to win the title, but their actions do not back up the verbal aspirations. City's manager, Roberto Mancini, similarly has problems, to make peace with his board and to move on at least two forwards to ease his wage bill and make a far better fist of the Champions League.

Ferguson, as in 1999, has only to keep four excellent centre-forwards happy and scoring. He has done it before, and he has done this before, manning up to those threatening his supremacy.

No wonder then, with Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney at his disposal, he was buoyant yesterday.

Striker light: Transfer spends

Transfer net spend since summer 2008:

Arsenal +£28m

Manchester City -£394.95m

Manchester United -£60.15m

* includes £24m for Robin van Persie

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment