Around an hour ago, several Twitter stories sprung up regarding the potential transfer of one Robin van Persie to Manchester United. These reports were seemingly based on some guy from the Huffington Post UK, which is probably as rubbish as the American version. They were also based on a story from the Manchester Evening News which reported that van Persie could fly in to Manchester as early as tonight to seal the transfer. The ITK-Tabloid Information Session was completed when the Daily Mirror's John Cross reported that van Persie was still at Arsenal's Germany training camp and had not left, but, that Manchester United were going to bid again.
Who's right? It's a tough one to call; all of the above media sources have a good history of reporting wildly inaccurate stories, while people who are good Arsenal sources say van Persie's still there, and is expected to take part in Sunday's game against Colonge. I think it's probably fair to say that all of the media sources are probably somewhat untrustworthy here; van Persie's probably not left the training camp, which, for our purposes, is all that matters. Cross' version of events sounds more plausible, but it doesn't mean that he's right; yet, the Manchester Evening News story and the Twitter report from the Huffington Post doesn't sound plausible at all.
They don't sound plausible because I find it hard to believe that Arsene Wenger would condone selling one of the best players in the league to a very team that is very much part of a long and bitter rivalry, no matter the apparent cordial relations between Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson. Manchester United did finish 19 points ahead of Arsenal last year, but, having bought Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, there's a feeling Arsenal could catch up with United, especially with a better start. Selling van Persie to United, and thus improving them, would hurt Arsenal, whereas selling van Persie to City, where he might not start every game and doesn't vastly improve them, or Juventus, in a foreign league, doesn't hurt Arsenal in the way that selling him to Manchester United would. Again, this isn't to say that the Daily Mirror are right; I suspect that the real truth is somewhere in the middle, and that none of these tabloids have the full story, or even half the story.
There's also the legitimate question of whether Manchester United are deliberately leaking information in order to promote interest in the club, especially with an IPO that's due to float on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday morning. Given that United have been linked with a number of players since the IPO release was confirmed, and have bought none of them (see Lucas Moura), this wouldn't surprise me. Quite frankly, I cannot see Arsene Wenger selling Robin van Persie to Manchester United, if Wenger has the final say.
That, though, may be the reason van Persie does get sold to United. Arsenal have spent around £36m this summer and have gotten very little back in an area where they usually need to come close to breaking even. Wenger could be overruled about selling van Persie by the board, and, in particular, by Stan Kroenke. If that is the case, Arsenal will have a lot more to worry about than just the loss of their best player to a Premier League rival, because it will mean that the power and influence of the most important man at the club is declining. That would be entirely more worrisome than losing van Persie.