April 22, 2013 marks a date forever etched into the hearts of Manchester United fans as it was the night the club sealed their historic 20th league title.
It was a testament to the dominance United had over the league throughout the 2012/13 season that the club actually had the title wrapped up as early as they did, but they had a certain Dutchman to thank for that in the form of mercurial forward Robin van Persie.
The striker sparked huge controversy when he “listened to the little boy” inside of him and upped sticks from Arsenal to the home of one of their most fierce rivals in United. It took very little time at all for Van Persie to adjust from the red of the Gunners to the red of United.
In truth, he actually delivered one of the most remarkable debut seasons ever witnessed at Old Trafford. The former Feyenoord prodigy’s league numbers alone made for astonishing reading, with 26 goals accompanied by 15 assists. Each one felt like a knife in the back of the Emirates faithful who had long waited for this kind of excellence from the forward.
The Premier League triumph was sealed in the most fitting way possible, as Van Persie netted a first-half hat-trick that included one of the finest volley’s witnessed in the English top flight. Carefully tracking a precise, pinpoint diagonal pass from his then-partner in crime Wayne Rooney, Van Persie’s eyes were fixated on the ball before lashing a fierce left-footed effort beyond the helpless Aston Villa goalkeeper, Brad Guzan.
Few inside of Old Trafford that night could have predicted that it would be the last time they lift the trophy for at least a decade, but that has since proven to be the case. Iconic manager Sir Alex Ferguson left at the end of that campaign after 26 years at the helm.
What followed was years of mismanagement both on and off the pitch, but finally – nearly exactly nine years on from that night against Villa – there is at last some optimism among the United faithful. Coincidentally, this is also down to the arrival of another Dutchman.
Erik ten Hag has officially been unveiled as the new manager of United and will start his reign following the conclusion of the current campaign. Until then, the 52-year-old will devote all his attention to securing a third Eredivisie title with Ajax.
Speaking in the aftermath of his appointment, Ten Hag explained: “It is a great honour to be appointed manager of Manchester United and I am hugely excited by the challenge ahead.
“I know the history of this great club and the passion of the fans, and I am absolutely determined to develop a team capable of delivering the success they deserve.”
So much was expected of United before a ball had been kicked this term while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was still in the hot seat, but the Red Devils have fallen spectacularly short. Ralf Rangnick’s interim reign has hardly inspired a significant turnaround and it is clear something drastic is required.
A manager of Ten Hag’s style is one that feels so desperately required at Old Trafford, a coach with the Dutch courage to let it be known who he does and doesn’t want within his ranks. The future is bright, and yet again at United the future appears to be Oranje.