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Why Robben Not Signing For United Was A Blessing In Disguise

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Before Wesley Sneijder there was one talented Dutch midfielder who United’s fans were dreaming about seeing at Old Trafford. It might have been Raphael van der Vaart, it certainly wasn’t Andy Van der Meyde (remember him?). Nope, the name on every United’s fans lips at one time was Arjen Robben.

Back in the summer of 2003, after an impressive first season at Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven, Peter Kenyon who was then at United, opened talks with PSV’s chairman Harry van Raaij about the winger moving to Old Trafford.

Initially it appeared that the move would happen, but after Kenyon’s move to Chelsea at the start of the 2003/04 season, there were rumours that Chelsea now backed by the billions of Roman Ambramovich were now interested in acquiring the silky winger. Fans put two and two together claiming that Kenyon once again had ‘ripped United off’ and by March of 2004, unsurprisingly Robben had agreed a deal to play for the Londoners at the start of the following season.

United fans were far from happy with the winger’s decision, after all both him and his dad had spoken about being interested in a move to United. Robben had even had a meal with Sir Alex Ferguson in London and was shown around Carrington where he got to train with the first-team squad during his visit to Manchester.

It was a case of United’s fans being annoyed about losing out on a special talent. After all there are not too many talented wingers about who emerge like Robben did and with United falling behind Arsenal and Chelsea at the time, it was another moment of frustration for the fans.

There were allegations that Robben had just taken up the money, but looking at it from his side of view at the time Chelsea were growing up as a big club and if proven-European stars like Hernan Crespo and Claude Makelele felt fit that Chelsea was right for them, then you can perhaps understand why a young talent like Robben would want to make Stamford Bridge his new playground.

After picking up an injury in pre-season Robben didn’t make his Chelsea debut until November and only played in 18 league games (less than half the season) with his season ending early after an injury away at Blackburn Rovers. He still picked up two winner’s medals in his first season at Stamford Bridge though and won a second league title the following season where

His third and final season in England though was a quiet one and surprisingly at the end of the season he moved to Real Madrid. Robben’s form in two seasons in the Spanish capital was good, but when Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka signed in at the Bernabeau, he had to move on and did against his wishes.

Mind you joining Bayern Munich has not exactly been a bad move for him has it. In his first season Robben won the Bundesliga and the German Cup and picked up the German footballer of the year award, partly thanks to top scoring for Bayern in the process.. Last season didn’t go too well for the Dutchman as he struggled with injuries all season. 

However as football fans have always known about Robben is when he fit and playing, he often delivers and despite being injured for in effect two-thirds of the season, he still produced some great moments that showed why he remains an ‘enigma’ of European football.

On his day there are few wingers who are better than Robben. He has pace, trickery, accurate crossing ability, good dribbling skills and an eye for goal. The problem sadly is that he is brittle and will always be a player who has niggling injuries that will put him on the sidelines just as it looks as if he’s injury free.

Looking back at it, had he joined United in 2004, there’s no doubt Old Trafford would have been a great platform for him to perform and that in the years to come, he would have developed just like Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo did and became a key part of our team that by 2006 had grown from a team of boys to that of young men, who would win 4 league titles in 5 seasons.

In a way though it’s a blessing in disguise that Robben didn’t join United as despite the fact he’s a world-class player, judging by his injury record, he would have probably spent time out on the sidelines whilst playing for United. More importantly though his form might have actually convinced Ryan Giggs to retire possibly 3-4 years ago which looking back at it now is something no United or football fan would have wanted to have happened.

Instead of course the legendary Welshman is still trucking on, playing more games per-season than the Dutchman over the last couple of years, who is almost 10 years younger than him. Who knows, Nani probably wouldn’t have been signed either and look at the kind of talent he’s become over the last two seasons. As they say in football you win some and you lose some.

By Adam Dennehey @ADennehey87