Van Persie will be unfazed by Arsenal abuse: Ferguson
United boss says he's not concerned about the Dutchman facing wrath of fans from old club and will handle the situation like a pro
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson says he has no concerns about Robin van Persie facing abuse from fans of his former club Arsenal when they clash at the Emirates Stadium today.
Van Persie left Arsenal in an acrimonious £24 million (HK$288 million) transfer last year and has been a revelation in his first season at Old Trafford. His hat-trick at home to Aston Villa on Monday took his tally for the campaign to 24 league goals and secured the title for United, which Arsenal have pledged to acknowledge by forming a guard of honour.
The sight of Van Persie being applauded on to the pitch as a league champion by his former teammates is liable to provoke strong feelings among the Arsenal support, but Ferguson says the Dutchman will not be fazed.
"I don't bother about it, and I don't think Robin should bother about it either," said the United manager. "There was a bit of booing when he played [against Arsenal] at Old Trafford, and I expect a portion of fans will do that. That is the modern generation, I am afraid.
"For Arsenal to have one of their players go to their biggest rivals of the last 20 years doesn't sit well with their fans, nor Arsene [Wenger, the Arsenal manager] for that matter.
"But it does happen. You just have to move on. Arsenal have moved on now. They are challenging for a Champions League place and have every chance of getting one."
Ferguson has urged United to go on and break the Premier League points record of 95 by winning their four remaining games, but today's showdown will be of far greater significance to the fight for Champions League qualification.
Arsenal, in third, fourth-place Chelsea and fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur are separated by just two points, but Wenger's side are at a disadvantage having played a game more than their rivals.
However, their form is excellent, with six wins in their past seven matches, and Wenger believes it proves Van Persie has not been unduly missed. "What you want to focus on is that when the big players go, you just want to get around it and try to find a new organisation that is efficient," he said
"You always miss a big player. The only thing I can say is it took us a while to get around it, but if you look at the number of goals we've scored, it's similar to last season [1.91 goals per game compared to 1.95].
"It took us a while to find a different way because the game went through him [Van Persie] a lot. We had to find a new balance between defending and attacking, but now we are stabilised."
Wenger finds himself with another striker-shaped hole to fill ahead of Sunday's game. Olivier Giroud is suspended after he lost an appeal against the red card he received in last weekend's 1-0 win at Fulham.
In the Frenchman's absence, Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski will compete for the right to spearhead the attack.
United have enjoyed a superb record against Arsenal in recent seasons, winning nine and losing just one of their past 11 encounters in all competitions.
Chelsea, meanwhile, face Swansea at Stamford Bridge today looking to bounce back after dropping two points following Luis Suarez's late equaliser at Liverpool last weekend.
Chelsea's midweek victory in Basel in the first leg of the Europa League semi-finals will have boosted confidence in Rafael Benitez's squad.
But goalkeeper Petr Cech believes the pressure will continue to mount until the very end of the campaign and Chelsea cannot afford any slip-ups against a Swansea side that beat them in the League Cup this season.
"The top-four fight is undecided and won't be until the last game. For the neutral it will be exciting until the last day," Cech said. "We have a big game in every match we play. This is the way it goes and we can't forget about Swansea." Looming is the home showdown with Tottenham on May 8 but David Luiz, the scorer of the last-minute winning goal in Basel, warned it was too soon to target that clash as a potential decider in the race for the top four.
"We need to take three points in all the games. Spurs are one key game for us, but we need to play well in the other games too," Luiz said. "We need to keep focused for the future, particularly on Sunday against Swansea, because they have a very good team."