Robin van Persie became the world’s most famous substitute on Monday at Goodison Park, a title the Dutch striker won’t be holding for much longer, that’s for sure.
With Manchester United struggling to score goals and fighting to reclaim its place as the top dog in the Premier League, Sir Alex Ferguson will pair Van Persie with Wayne Rooney sooner than later.
And if it makes Arsenal supporters feel any better, at least Arsenal managed to draw with Sunderland last weekend despite not finding the back of the net. Man U failed to score against Everton and is not only goalless but winless as well despite adding Van Persie to its already deep and talented roster.
Arsenal should enjoy the moment while it lasts because Manchester United won’t stay down very long. The move to buy Van Persie was about winning trophies in the present and future. This is what the free-spending clubs with deep pockets and a tradition of winning do in the months after a crosstown rival – in this case Manchester City – steals its thunder.
Having been in London for the Olympics and following the Van Persie saga up close, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between Manchester United’s play for Van Persie and the Los Angeles Lakers' play for Dwight Howard. The two biggest transactions of the summer took place within days of one another, and in theory, in the same city.
The NBA players were on the verge of winning a gold medal at the Olympics when the story broke about Howard being traded from the Orlando Magic to the Lakers. Kobe Bryant could barely contain his excitement as the rich got richer in the NBA. The same was true of Man United securing Van Persie, the top goalscorer in the EPL last season.
Howard puts the Lakers that much closer to winning an NBA championship while Van Persie could be the missing piece that leads to a Champions League title for United. And if you are a basketball fan in Salt Lake City or a football supporter of Queens Park Rangers, you have that same sinking feeling; so much for competitive balance in world where money talks.
It’s somewhat ironic that both Howard and Van Persie never led their former teams to a championship. They have something else in common, of course: both forced their way out of town and ended up with a better club and increased their chances of winning a trophy.
If Van Persie helps United to a Champions League title in May at Wembley, no one will care that his exit from the Emirates was ugly and left Arsenal fans disenchanted. He’ll be a winner and Sir Alex a genius. The EPL is just like every major sports league in the United States; in order to compete, one must spend. Think of the money Man City spent in order to reach the top for the first time in four decades. Chelsea captured its first Champions League title by raiding clubs all over Europe for their top players.
Van Persie understands the landscape. He knew that Arsenal would use its resources to take that next step, which is why he wanted out. Manchester United lost the league title in the final minutes of the season and had a disappointing run in the Champions League. Second best is never good enough at Old Trafford. The same applies to the Lakers and the Yankees.
No one ever said that that spending wads of cash on players guarantees you a title, but it certainly gives you a chance. Van Persie, the world’s most famous sub, knows that better than anyone.
Follow FRANK ISOLA on