Fergie knew RVP would shine
Sir Alex Ferguson "went the extra mile" because he knew Robin van Persie would make the difference for Manchester United this season.
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While Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has spent the campaign lamenting his failure to sign Van Persie from Arsenal last summer, Ferguson has profited from his intuition.
After years of speaking about value and youth, Ferguson spent £24million on a player edging towards 30, with only a year left on his contract and a dubious injury record. To an outsider, it seemed like a gamble. To Ferguson, it was anything but.
"It was a lot of money for a player in the last year of his contract," said the Scot.
"But the thing about it is - as it proved with Manchester City the year before when they paid £24million for Samir Nasri - you either want him or you don't.
"You have to pay the price that the club are sticking out for, whether it is one year on his contract, two or three.
"We wanted him badly, so we were prepared to go the extra mile."
The rewards have been startling.
Four days earlier he netted twice at Wigan in a victory that kept the Red Devils seven points ahead of City in the Premier League title race, part of a current run of nine goals in nine games which has netted him the Barclays Premier League Player of the Month award for December.
"I expected his signing would be important for us," said Ferguson.
"I really did. What he did last season was only the culmination of a few years' experience at Arsenal (he scored 37 goals in all competitions for the Gunners in 2011-12).
"Any player coming to us for the first year, you never know for sure.
"Who would have thought Wayne Rooney would have got a hat-trick on his debut? It is fairytale stuff.
"But what we did know was that we were signing a very good player."
Ferguson is also impressed by Van Persie's professionalism, which he has previously cited as an example to the remainder of his squad.
And, as Van Persie kept his cool to secure victory at Anfield in September, it is clear the Dutchman will be a man to watch on Sunday, along with Reds forward Luis Suarez, whom Ferguson insists there are no special plans for.
"We pay respect to every opponent we meet," he said.
"You should always give your team as much information as you can in terms of what is important in the game.
"Suarez is no different to any other good player we come up against."
Ferguson has Nani and Anderson available after their respective hamstring injuries, offering United additional options in both midfield and the wide positions.
Wayne Rooney will not be involved though, despite reports the former Everton man has been pleading to play after recovering from the knee injury he suffered in training on Christmas Day.
"He is not far away," said Ferguson.
"I don't think it is an issue of guiding him along in terms of the injury he had. It is quite straightforward.
"If he starts training today, we should have him available for Wednesday's (FA Cup) replay against West Ham."
It is easy to see why Rooney would want to be involved.
Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs have both spoken of their belief that Liverpool remain United's major rivals, even though City's emergence in recent years compared to the Reds' decline has fuelled the intense inter-Mancunian discord.
Ferguson has uttered similar thoughts down the years and after all the furore over Suarez's racism row with Patrice Evra - which thankfully seems to have reached an end with a pre-match handshake at Anfield in September - he knows what the atmosphere will be like at Old Trafford this weekend.
"It is Liverpool," said Ferguson.
"A derby game. That never changes. It is always an immensely important game.
"It is intense and emotional. Everything you can think of in a derby game will probably be there on Sunday."