Why Van Persie [Pounds Sterling]64m Was a Farewell Present to Ferguson
Byline: Joe Bernstein
ALEX FERGUSON will step down as Manchester United manager in two years after building his final great team at Old Trafford around the talents of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.
Ferguson went to unprecedented lengths to push through the deal for Van Persie, believing it was the only way for him to leave a fitting legacy when he retires aged 72 in the summer of 2014.
Many inside United, including chief executive David Gill, questioned whether a [pounds sterling]64million investment in Van Persie - a [pounds sterling]24m transfer fee plus [pounds sterling]200,000-a-week wages for four years - was prudent.
There will be no resale value on the 29-year-old Holland striker to help ease the club's debts, which run into hundreds of millions of pounds.
But having given the Glazer family his public support over the years, against the wishes of many United fans, the owners gave Ferguson payback by bankrolling the deal.
Ferguson even rang his counterpart Arsene Wenger directly to make sure it happened, and the owners accepted a higher fee than United ideally wanted. The truth, however, is that if the Glazers had not backed Ferguson on this one, his much-needed backing for them might have wavered.
Friends of the United manager, who remarkably begins his 28th season in charge of the club with a Premier League opener against Everton tomorrow night, are aware that he is now beginning the countdown to his retirement in earnest.
He certainly did not want to spend the next 24 months as an irrelevant sideshow to what was happening across town at Manchester City.
A source said: 'Alex will only be manager for a couple more years so it was time the owners gave him what he wanted. And that was Van Persie.
'What is a few million? It could be the difference that helps Alex win the Champions League again.' Having missed out on Lucas Moura to the new European moneybags of Paris St-Germain this summer, Ferguson knew his club's status would be tarnished if United lost Van Persie for financial reasons when the striker was desperate to join them.
Ferguson revealed: 'The boy wanted to come to us. That was important. That made it possible. If he hadn't come out forcibly to Arsenal and told them he wanted to come to Manchester United, negotiations would have been over.
'I spoke to David Gill and he spoke to the Glazer family and they got the ball rolling. But that was some months ago, it was a long haul.' That haul only ended when Ferguson - not Gill, who normally conducts transfer policy - spoke to Wenger directly.
'It wasn't an easy one because, understandably, Arsene Wenger didn't want to sell to Manchester United,' said Ferguson.
Even so, he was only successful because the Glazers agreed to increase their original [pounds sterling]15m bid for Van Persie to [pounds sterling]24million - not a decision taken lightly given the gloomy forecasts for a recent United share issue in New York. …