Arsene Wenger has admitted that Arsenal were powerless to stop Robin van Persie signing for Manchester United.
United sealed the signing of the summer on Wednesday night when Arsenal agreed to sell Van Persie to their Barclays Premier League rivals for £24million.
Van Persie arrived at London St Pancras train station on Thursday morning ahead of his trip to Manchester to complete his medical. He could be confirmed as United player later in the day.
After weeks of negotiating with Arsenal and the Holland striker, United have beaten Manchester City and Juventus to Van Persie’s signature and the 29-year-old will have a medical at Old Trafford on Thursday.
Manager Arsene Wenger has the best part of two weeks to spend some of the money before the transfer window is closed. He said on French TV on Wednesday night: ‘It’s sad to lose a player of his quality. He had only one year left on his contract so we didn’t have the choice.’
In the red: How Robin van Persie will look in a Manchester United shirt in our mocked-up picture
Asked who he would recruit, Wenger said: ‘We already signed Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud.’
Van Persie is the first Arsenal player to join United since Viv Anderson in 1987 and the move has riled Gunners fans, who took to Twitter to abuse him.
United are understood to have agreed a £15m downpayment for last season’s Footballer of the Year and Players’ Player — who scored 30 Premier League goals for last season. That will rise to £24m depending on appearances. Van Persie is expected to sign a four-year contract worth over £200,000 a week.
A statement on United’s website said: ‘Manchester United is pleased to announce it has reached agreement with Arsenal for the transfer of Robin van Persie. The deal is subject to a medical and the agreement of personal terms.’
In signing Van Persie, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has laid down a clear marker ahead of the new season. It is the first time the club have paid for a big name since Dimitar Berbatov from Tottenham for £30.75m in 2008.
Having decided two or three years ago they would not sign players over the age of 27, United have signified just how far they are prepared to go to wrest the title back from City.
Final hurdle: The protracted deal will be concluded when Van Persie has a medical on Thursday
City manager Roberto Mancini will be particularly irritated that United have been allowed to steal his top target from under his nose, and this will test his strained relationship with the club’s football administrator Brian Marwood still further.
Van Persie was on Wednesday night with Holland, who lost a friendly 4-2 to Belgium. He is expected to fly to Manchester early on Thursday morning.
His departure will leave Arsenal fans angry that yet another of their star players has decided to depart in search of an improved salary and better prospects for winning major honours.
Van Persie follows Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas, who left a year ago, although the club recovered from a poor start — including an 8-2 demolition by United at Old Trafford — to finish third.
Michael Carrick, who was on duty with England on Wednesday, was first to comment on the deal.
He said: ‘Someone mentioned in the dressing room about Van Persie and if it goes through, it will be brilliant. He had a terrific season and he will further strengthen our squad. It is a great boost going into the new season.
‘He is a world class player and we have always been about bringing in players of that ability.
‘Can it make the difference between second and first? There wasn’t much difference so hopefully we can go that step further! But the club has always had strength in depth and it is about the squad and not the 11 on the pitch.’