On April 28, 2013, Robin van Persie received one of the most awkward guards of honour in footballing history.
Robin van Persie avoided eye contact with a number of his former Arsenal teammates, who had lined up to give Manchester United a guard of honour days after Sir Alex Ferguson‘s side clinched the Premier League title.
After eight years at Arsenal with only a solitary FA Cup to his name, Van Persie signed for United in 2012 and won the Premier League in his first season at Old Trafford.
The Dutch forward received an awful reception from the fans when he returned to the Emirates a Premier League champion and, apparently, Van Persie did not enjoy one moment of the guard of honour.
#OTD 8 years ago Arsenal players gave former player Robin Van Persie the most awkward guard of honour! 👀
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) April 28, 2021
“I didn’t like it. Some of them were my friends, I spent eight years there and I was just happy that it was over,” van Persie said on the UTD Podcast.
“I could see in their faces that they didn’t like it, which I get. And then you see me walking there, I was just happy that it was over.
“I think it’s a nice gesture to do towards the champions, but it just didn’t feel right, not for me and not for Arsenal. It was a little bit awkward there, so I didn’t feel really comfortable about that.
“From my point of view, it didn’t need to happen. Okay, it’s part of the rules and, from the basics, I did like it but not that particular day.”
Van Persie finished that season as top goalscorer in England, having completed a hat-trick against Aston Villa a week before the trip to the Emirates. Van Persie found the net from the penalty spot against the Gunners.
Ferguson praised then-Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger for welcoming the champions with a guard of honour although he admitted that he had anticipated something of a hostile reception for Van Persie.
“I am glad Arsene has done that. That is what great clubs should do,” Ferguson said.
“I don’t bother about it [the booing], and I don’t think Robin should bother about it either. That is the modern generation I am afraid.
“For Arsenal to have one of their players go to their biggest rivals of the last 20 years doesn’t sit well with their fans, nor Arsene for that matter.
“But it does happen. You just have to move on.”