When the 2011/12 campaign ended, Manchester United were down. They had experienced a soul-crushing last minute title loss against arch-rivals in circumstances no one had ever seen before.
Sir Alex Ferguson and his squad must have been devastated, and rightly so. Old Trafford needed something to reinvigorate the club – enter Robin van Persie. Signed from Arsenal, van Persie proceeded to have one of the greatest individual campaigns Old Trafford and the Premier League has seen.
Robin van Persie had reached stardom at Arsenal, especially after players like Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri departed the club and while the red half of Manchester were hurtling through the roller coaster season of 2011/12, van Persie was tearing it up in North London. The Dutchman scored 30 league goals for the Gunners as they finished 3rd in the table. He won the PFA Player of The Year award, but team success is what he craved the most. That season in itself was something historical but he arguably trumped that the following one.
Ferguson acquired him for an initial fee of £22.5m, which was a hefty amount during that period. The season started in sketchy fashion though as United lost to Everton in the season opener. But van Persie soon found his scoring boots, netting his first goal for the club in a 3-2 win over Fulham. His first memorable moment in a United shirt came away to Southampton; he scored a hat-trick in a 3-2 win, which included a dramatic stoppage-time winner.
Robin van Persie’s scoring never really dwindled, goals against the weaker sides were aplenty, but he made an impact against the direct rivals as well. A winner at Anfield, brace against Chelsea and a goal inside the opening three minutes against former employers Arsenal were all crucial as United won those fixtures. His first Manchester derby was one to remember too as he curled in a late free-kick to hand his side a 3-2 win at the Etihad Stadium.
Statistically, van Persie was United’s best player that season. His goals and assists were worth a staggering 43 points to the Red Devils, which underlines the impact he had. He recorded a goal or an assist against each Premier League outfit, often both and when he was not scoring, he was assisting, having an impact nonetheless.
As the season progressed, it became clear that the title was United’s to lose. Their city rivals did defeat them in the derby at Old Trafford but the result was nothing less than a minor blip. On 22nd April, Aston Villa visited Manchester, knowing that losing the tie would hand United the title. Persie scored two before 15 minutes, and United were on course. His third goal of the night was a sight for sore eyes. Rooney played it long and van Persie volleyed it first-time to seal the victory.
Manchester United claimed their 20th league title against Villa which took them ahead of arch-rivals Liverpool. It was the No.20 who had a major role in returning the trophy to Old Trafford though. Persie scored more than 30% of United’s goals that season with Rooney scoring 12 and Javier Hernandez adding 10, but no one else really contributed many.
The 2012/13 season was a special one for Manchester United. It was Sir Alex’s last one at the helm, and he gave a wonderful parting gift before departing. He arguably overachieved with an aging squad, but one big piece was the main reason why. That piece was Robin van Persie, who came to the Theatre of Dreams and conquered it. In doing so, he notched up one of the best individual campaigns the Premier League has evwe seen.