Robin van Persie has been speaking about how his Manchester United career was ended. According to the former Dutch striker, Louis van Gaal was “ruthless” when calling time on his career at Old Trafford.
Van Persie was an instant success at Man United after joining the club from Arsenal in 2012. The Dutch forward was Alex Ferguson’s last great signing and the key factor in the club’s last title victory in 2013.
Van Persie was simply sensational in his first season at Old Trafford, netting 30 goals in 48 games as the club won the Premier League by 11 points.
Van Persie’s plight after Ferguson retired
However, Ferguson’s retirement at the end of that season badly affected his form. Van Persie, like the rest of the Man United squad, struggled under David Moyes and didn’t fare much better when Louis van Gaal became the manager in the summer of 2014.
Van Persie scored more goals in his first season (30) than in his final two campaigns at Old Trafford (28). After picking up an ankle injury in February 2015, he played just another five games for Man United. Van Persie joined Turkish side Fenerbache for a cut-price transfer fee that summer.
Van Gaal and Van Persie
It was predicted Van Gaal would reignite Van Persie’s career at Old Trafford, as the pair had a successful working relationship with the Dutch national team.
Van Gaal made Van Persie the team’s captain and the former Feyenoord striker was a key player during the Netherland’s run to the World Cup semi-finals in 2014.
“You have to go, your time is up…”
Yet, within a year, Van Gaal would end Van Persie’s spell at Old Trafford. According to Van Persie, who retired after a spell with Feyenoord in 2019, his compatriot was “ruthless” when the time came to move him on.
“I had this chat with Louis van Gaal and he told me: ‘Okay, Robin, our ways will part. I’m the coach, you’re the player. You have to go, your time is up’,” Van Persie said on the High-Performance Podcast.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, but I still have a contract?’ He said: ‘I don’t care’. Ruthless.
“Towards the end of it, I saw something coming, but not this ruthless. And the way he said it as well. Then a lot of things go through your mind when you get a message like that.”
Van Persie said Van Gaal’s decision had implications far beyond the football pitch, as he and his family were settled in England.
“I still had a contract, my family was happy, it was my eleventh year in England. We love living in England. What’s next?
“My kids are going to school, they have their friends and everything. So, in like a split second, all these things come across (your mind). How do you react to that?
“I said, ‘We will see what happens. That’s your opinion. But I have a contract and I’m happy in England at Manchester United. So, we will see what happens’. And I stood up, shook his hand and left it.”
Van Persie also said that Van Gaal excluded him from participating in 11 v 11 matches when he returned for pre-season training in the summer of 2015.
“On the way home back I was thinking: ‘Okay, this is tough. How do you react to a message like that?’
“That ruthless, that hard, that direct,” Van Persie said, reflecting on his departure from Old Trafford.
“And then loads of things came through my mind and we started pre-season. I wasn’t allowed to play in the 11 vs 11 and I was given a ball and told to do my own stuff.
“So, you try to stay calm, stay cool but there are loads of things happening.
“You’re playing the macho card. ‘It doesn’t affect me’ but it does. It does affect me, my family and my career. Big time.”
“Now if I look back…”
The former Dutch striker also said he now wishes he had spoken to someone outside of his “inner circle” for advice on how to handle the situation.
“I tried to stay cool, but maybe at that point it was good for me to talk to someone outside of my inner circle but I was too stubborn to do that,” he said.
“Now if I look back at it, there was a couple of points in my career where I should have done that.”
Van Persie remains a hero to Manchester United fans after scoring 58 goals in 105 games for the club and playing such a pivotal role in delivering their most recent title success.
Van Gaal would last one more season at Old Trafford, when his team won the FA Cup, before he was replaced by Jose Mourinho.