Robin van Persie’s return to the Emirates Stadium with Manchester United last weekend was greeted with a chorus of boos from the Arsenal faithful.
However, Van Persie was a great servant to the club in his time there - so were supporters justified in their treatment of their former player?
He enjoyed a successful spell at the London club. He scored 96 goals in just 194 appearances, winning the FA Cup and Community Shield along the way.
He left Arsenal in pursuit of more silverware and this has been justified after capturing the Premier League title in his first season at Old Trafford. Yes, he may have been handed a huge wage increase as well but capturing silverware was a major motivator in his decision to move.
Van Persie has conducted himself in a very dignified manner since leaving Arsenal and did not leave under a cloud. He did not leave to go to their arch-rivals Tottenham, but I suppose Manchester United are the team that every clubs supporters love to hate.
On Sunday, Arsenal supporters showed the Dutchman very little respect despite his record at the club and were more intent on trying to taunt the Manchester United star. To his credit Van Persie did not react to any of this and acted in a totally professional manner. Fellow United player Patrice Evra alluded to this after the match.
“He did a good job for Arsenal and I was really disappointed for him [with the negative reception]," the French defender said. "I think he felt it as well.”
Supporters are far too quick to boo ex-players and forget about the joy and excitement these players brought to them and their club. They can be very narrow-minded, but it goes to show that a supporters' club is far bigger than any individual player - and rightly so.
Some players do leave clubs on bad terms and are critical once they have departed. On these occasions booing a former player can be justified, likewise if a player leaves to go to your nearest rivals. Leeds United supporters will never forget the likes of Eric Cantona and Rio Ferdinand leaving to join Manchester United. However, if players do go on to better themselves, like Van Persie has, then surely they deserve respect for this.
One thing is for sure: supporters will continue to boo former players, but I hope that fans will also recognise those players who have served them well and show appreciation to them.
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