Arsenal supporters' group back guard of honour for Manchester United
Robin van Persie should expect a “hot reception”
Wednesday 24 April 2013
Arsenal Independent Supporters Association chair Lois Langton feels the club were right to agree to a guard of honour for newly crowned Barclays Premier League champions Manchester United ahead of Sunday's showdown at the Emirates Stadium - but warned Robin van Persie should expect a “hot reception”.
United sealed a 20th domestic championship on Monday night when they beat Aston Villa 3-0 at Old Trafford, where former Gunners' captain Van Persie smashed a hat-trick.
The title winners have traditionally been clapped out onto the pitch in their next match, with United having done so themselves in 2005 for Chelsea, who then returned the gesture two years later, and also Arsenal when they came to Highbury back in 1991.
However, with passions still running high among some of the Emirates Stadium faithful by the manner in which Van Persie left last summer in a £24million move, there have been suggestions those disgruntled fans will turn their backs when the teams come out from the tunnel in protest.
While AISA chair Langton believes the club are right to show United respect of their achievements, she can understand why emotions will boil over as far as Van Persie is concerned.
"I think we have to give the guard of honour, as I don't want us to look as though we are being petty by not giving the guard of honour," Langton told Press Association Sport.
"For it not to happen and for supporters not to acknowledge the Manchester United team as they come out would actually boost Robin van Persie's ego.
"I would rather us just acknowledge them and then get on with the game - otherwise the focus will be on Robin van Persie, rather than the Arsenal team, which is what we are supposed to be going there to support.
"Having said that, the reality is he will get a hot reception."
Langton added: "Football is a game of passion and emotion, and there are a large amount of supporters who feel very strongly about the circumstances in which Robin van Persie left.
"We had the seven years of him being injured with us, then he had his one injury-free good season, and at the end of that he decided to leave.
"The statement he came out with when he left, which I think he felt showed he identified with supporters, actually showed how very far removed he was from supporters.
"He completely called it wrong, he did not appreciate how Arsenal supporters felt about him and about the club.
"He alienated himself from supporters by the way in which he brought about his move, that is still felt very strongly by Arsenal supporters and is what is going to generate the response that he is going to get when he comes back on Sunday."
Van Persie has continued his fine goalscoring form this season, chalking up 28 in all competitions and is in line to collect the Premier League's Golden Boot once again.
Langton, however, feels Van Persie's rhetoric and body language have gone little way to calming any tensions.
"He has also not been terribly respectful towards Arsene Wenger, with the celebration after he scored that penalty (against Stoke), when he ran over to the touchline and embraced (Sir) Alex Ferguson," she added.
"It sends out a message that Arsene Wenger has not been the one who brought him to the stage he got to now, recognising who got him to where he is today.
"When he came to us he was a slight persona non grata in Holland, where he had difficulties at Feyenoord. It was a risk buying him, and without question Arsene Wenger has made him into the player he is today."
Arsenal - who must do without striker Olivier Giroud for three games after the Football Association yesterday rejected his appeal against a red card at Fulham - retain a slender one-point lead over fourth-placed Chelsea and are two ahead of north London rivals Tottenham, albeit having played a match more, as the battle for Champions League qualification looks set to go to the wire.
Langton feels the Gunners will move to improve their squad over the summer, when Wenger is said to have a £100million warchest at his disposal.
"There is an acknowledgement by the club that something needs to be done to bridge the gap," she said, "but the hierarchy and supporters still have faith in Arsene Wenger to identify who is needed to do that, rather than it just being about that we need to buy high-profile players."
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