Van Persie makes Man Utd look like treble heroes, says Fergie
Alex Ferguson boasts of return to a 1999-style strikeforce - little wonder Wenger is unhappy
ARSENE WENGER says he's not happy to have sold Robin van Persie to Manchester United. The Dutch striker is expected to complete his £22m transfer to Old Trafford today and could play in United's first league match of the season against Everton on Monday.
In a video released by French broadcaster TF1, for whom Wenger commentates occasionally, the Arsenal manager said: "Honestly, I would have preferred to have sold him overseas, to PSG [Paris Saint-Germain] for example, rather than Manchester United."
Seeing van Persie join Premier League rivals United was, Wenger admitted, "a negative point, which we wanted to avoid at any price, but we could not".
Asked why Arsenal had agreed to sell to United, Wenger replied: "There's an economic reality and the desire of the player. There's no other way but to leave him go. It's another pill to swallow, we've swallowed other ones and we've always survived."
Wenger agreed it would be hard to replace a player who scored 37 goals for the club last season, and the Arsenal manager was generous in his praise of his former captain. "He's an exceptional player in the pure sense of the term," said Wenger. "I haven't seen many in my life who have that quality in the first touch, are so technically gifted and have that intelligence of movement in the final 20 metres."
Nonetheless Wenger believes the departure of Van Persie is good news for Frenchman Olivier Giroud who, along with Lukas Podolski, is one of two new strikers to arrive at the Emirates this summer.
"It will give more chances to Giroud because when Van Persie is there he's hands-down the first name on the teamsheet and then you pick the others around him," explained Wenger. "There's a gap to fill, it's up to whoever wants to seize their chance."
Meanwhile United manager Alex Ferguson has been talking of his delight at the capture of Van Persie, saying the Dutchman's arrival gives the club their strongest strikeforce since 1999, when the club won the treble of Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League.
"It's great to have a player of Van Persie's quality to come into the squad," said Fergie. "What it gives us is more strength and combinations up front. Going back to the 1999 season, we had [Dwight] Yorke, [Andy] Cole, [Teddy] Sheringham and [Ole] Solskjaer — the four best strikers in Europe. We're getting towards that now, with Wayne, Robin, Chicharito [Javier Hernandez] and Danny Welbeck."
Then, in a clear sign he's cock-a-hoop over Van Persie's signing, Ferguson even made a joke, telling reporters: "It's a fantastic collection of players. I just hope that I pick the right combinations!"
It's unlikely Wenger was laughing.