As a wounded Arsenal train their guns on Manchester United who humiliated them 8-2 at the start of the season, Sir Alex Ferguson is rueing the fact that the Premier League's leading goal scorer Robin van Persie slipped through the net.
Ferguson revealed United watched Van Persie before he signed for Arsenal and developed into one of the world’s best strikers despite a top-level scouting mission to Holland.
The Scot knows Van Persie is the chief danger to his team at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday as United attempt to stay close to Manchester rivals City at the top of the table.
“He’s turned out to be a fantastic player,” Ferguson said. “Top teams usually have a player who can make a difference and Van Persie can. You look at Messi at Barcelona, Ronaldo at Real Madrid, Silva at City and for many years, Drogba at Chelsea. It’s a fact.
“Van Persie’s form and his goal-scoring have been fantastic. We have to hope he’s not at his best against us.”
But the Old Trafford boss confesses it could have been a different story had United followed through their interest in the kid from Rotterdam when he was just a young, up-and-coming star.
Fergie dispatched his spies to watch Van Persie play for Feyenoord reserves. But the striker – who had a wild streak then – was sent off and United’s interest in him fizzled out.
Arsene Wenger and Arsenal stayed on the case and eventually snapped him up after a series of clashes with Feyenoord coach Bert van Marwijk.
“There’s no doubt Van Persie’s goals have helped Arsenal tremendously this season,” said Ferguson. “The lad has matured, but I remember us going to see him in a reserve team at Feyenoord way back.
“I think he got sent off that day in the first half – or he walked off, I can’t quite remember what happened.
“We left it alone at the time but he’s turned out to be a fantastic player.
“It wasn’t anything to do with any disciplinary problems – it was just that we didn’t see enough of him at the time and Arsenal were closer to the situation than we were.
“He’s scored 18 goals in the league and his form is fantastic this season."