Ordinarily, when a high-profile transfer is only great for about one-third of the time, then that player is immediately classified as a flop.
Robin van Persie, however, was no flop. He was one of the best transfers of Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United tenure, as well as his last great signing. His £24 million move from Arsenal in August 2012 single-handedly swung the title race to United's favor. Simply put, without the Flying Dutchman, United doesn't win its record 20th league championship and give Ferguson his fairy-tale ending.
And now, it seems as if van Persie has reached his own ending, as far as United is concerned. Multiple outlets reported over the weekend that he has agreed to personal terms with Fenerbahçe. Pending a physical, as well as an agreement on a transfer fee, Van the Man would be the second United player to join the Istanbul club following Nani, who officially completed a £4.3 million deal on Monday.
Upon selling him to his once-hated rival, Arsene Wenger told Sir Alex Ferguson that van Persie was "even better than you think." Van Persie more than lived up to that praise during his first season at United. His brilliance was such that he papered over some serious cracks in the team's foundation (flaws that became exposed the following season under David Moyes) while playing at a similar level to Cantona or Ronaldo during that marvelous debut season. From his free-kick winner against Man City to his brace at Stamford Bridge to his hat-trick against Southampton, van Persie single-handedly carried the team during the first half of the 2012-13 season. He tailed off in the second half, but still gave us this goal (en route to a hat trick) against Aston Villa to help clinch the Premiership title:
He's been battling injuries and poor form in the two seasons since then. However, during these last two difficult seasons, he could still put on the cape from time to time and rescue United. For instance, there was his hat trick against Olympiacos in the Champions League in 2014 when United was staring down the barrel of an ignominious elimination after losing the first leg 2-0. Last season, during the early days of van Gaal's reign, when the team was struggling mightily, he secured a vital point against eventual champions Chelsea. He also spared United's blushes against Southampton in December, stealing all three points for a United squad that deserved to have points deducted from their total given how badly they played.
Unfortunately for RVP and United, those moments have become more fleeting over the years, and it's clear his time as a top-class striker are over. There was some hope that he'd be willing to stay at United as a squad player, contributing goals as needed while mentoring the team's younger players the way Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry did for him as he was working his way up at Arsenal. A keen student of history, van Persie knows that those types of players have always been revered at United (e.g. Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes). Finishing out his career at Old Trafford as a veteran leader would have ensured that he go down in United history as a beloved icon (something that won't happen at Arsenal because of the way he left).
Instead, he'll leave United as a respected hero. He still has international aspirations and his spot on the Dutch national team would be in danger if he were to lose playing time. With Euros looming, van Persie probably wasn't willing to take that chance. Either way, he can leave Old Trafford with his head held high. Maybe he didn't win as much silverware as he could have (and should have) during his United tenure, but that wasn't his fault. After all, he had the misfortune of joining a team that was about hit a major decline - it just wasn't apparent when he signed that the bottom was about to fall out.