SAF: United ready for neighbours

Robin van Persie has insisted he had no hesitation in deciding

to join Manchester United in the summer after also attracting

interest from Manchester City.

Van Persie is preparing for his first Manchester derby on Sunday

after deciding to bring an end to an eight-year stint with Premier

League rivals Arsenal.

The Dutchman had the chance to sign for City but insists he is

happy with his decision to head to Old Trafford.

“I made my mind up very quickly and I am coming into work with a

big smile on my face every day,” Van Persie told

MUTV.

“It is not really work, it is my hobby – I love football. But

everyone has been so nice to me and I have been having the time of

my life here.

“So I don’t regret that – but of course in a derby you have lots

of people involved – the fans and the players.

“Everyone is really committed and wants their team to win and

we’ll do all we can to win too.”

Van Persie is eager to help United claim victory at the Etihad

Stadium and extend their advantage at the top of the table to six

points.

He added: “Anything can happen but that’s the case with us every

week. We want to stretch our lead and keep our run going.”

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A unanimous decision from the London Legacy Development

Corporation board (LLDC) was to make Premier League club the

preferred bidder for the use of the Olympic Stadium.

Allardyce believes the relocation could be “outstanding” for the

Hammers but has issued a stark warning that the club must continue

to develop and progress to make the Olympic Stadium move work.

“There is one thing you have to bear in mind, you cannot build a

white elephant and the white elephant is a great stadium and no

team – disaster,” he said.

“We have to manage our finances carefully because of the

over-riding debt of the football club.

“I think what (co-chairmen) David Sullivan and David Gold do is

top that up with their own wealth but there is somewhere down the

line where they want to create a situation where that doesn’t

happen.

“The long-term future of the football club is not only a new

stadium but a new training facility that needs to go with the

stadium as well – there are years of good financial management

needed as well as success on the field.”

The 58-year-old Allardyce took charge at Bolton two years after

they had opened their new stadium and soon led the Trotters to the

Barclays Premier League.

The ex-Blackburn boss reckons his success in Bolton would not

have been possible if the club had not moved to their newer, modern

ground.

“There is always a lot of disruption when a club decides to move

form somewhere which has a huge history,” he said.

“It is always going to be upsetting to some of the very loyal

supporters we have but in the end, when you look to what happened

at places like Bolton, I couldn’t have built that sort of success

without those fantastic facilities – not that a facility has ever

produced a player but it doesn’t half help.”

Allardyce is also aware that the extra revenue that comes from

selling out a bigger stadium could make a difference in football’s

modern era.

“I suppose it has got bigger facilities and could then create

bigger revenues and I think you have got to judge a football club

by its revenues these days – by its spending power,” he said.

“Its spending power is the ultimate now when we look at what

Roman (Abramovich) has done at Chelsea and certainly what Mr.

Mansour has done at Man City, so if you increase your spending

power you can increase the size of your football club.”

Sullivan and Gold have already backed Allardyce in the transfer

window and also stumped up the wages to bring Andy Carroll to the

club on loan.

The Liverpool striker has had some off-field distractions during

his career to date but, following accusations of attacking a

photographer in Dublin after the Hammers’ Christmas party,

Allardyce is not worried about Carroll’s reputation.

“We have got 25 players out there and this is just a little

minor blip for me that was caused by a photographer and not by Andy

Carroll,” he said.

“He just wants to get on with his football, he doesn’t get

distracted, he would prefer not to have it but like I said with the

way he is he has got to cope with it as best as he possibly

can.”

The Gunners may have bettered cash-rich Chelsea and Manchester

City in reaching the last 16 of the Champions League, but they

remain well off the pace in the Premier League, having slumped down

to 10th place ahead of Sunday’s clash against West Brom.

While Wenger accepts the club’s move to Emirates Stadium was

always going to restrict their spending power in the short term,

the French coach – who guided Arsenal through an unbeaten season as

they swept to the title in 2003/2004 – would loathe to see the

traditional elements of building a team over time fall by the

wayside.

“I have big respect for the passion about the game in England,

but football is more than just splashing out,” he said.

“It is much deeper, much bigger than that – it is about sweat,

thinking, working hard. You have a big tradition of that in

England.

“I am scared all these qualities today have less importance in

the game.”

Wenger continued: “I don’t say that money doesn’t play a part in

it, but it is not only about that. We have to continue to believe

that it is not only about that because what is the game about

then?

“Football has to be even, interesting, unpredictable – nobody

can tell you what will happen in Manchester City versus Manchester

United, but it has to be level chances as well.”

In recent seasons, Arsenal have sold their best players to

big-spending rivals, with former captain Robin van Persie joining

Manchester United in the summer for ?24million.

Wenger does have resources available to strengthen the squad in

January, should he wish to dip into his Emirates Stadium

reserves.

He said: “It doesn’t mean we will not spend money. I am always

painted like a guy who refuses to spend money, I just think I act

like a responsible manager because we went through a period where

we had restricted funds and I acted in a responsible way.

“If needed, we want to be the best, but the best is not only

about buying players.

“We need to continue with what has made our strengths until

now.”

England forward Theo Walcott is the latest Arsenal player yet to

sign a new contract.

Wenger, however, rejected suggestions the club would rather cash

in on Walcott when the transfer window reopens instead of letting

him walk away on a free in the summer.

“If you ask me will we sell Theo in January? No. I have always

been hopeful he will sign,” Wenger said.

Three years ago, the Blues were just a noisy irritant to the

Manchester United boss.

Now, with an FA Cup and Premier League collected, City have

turned the volume up. And Ferguson is prepared for it.

“They’re screaming now,” he said ahead of Sunday’s derby at the

Etihad Stadium. “It’s great. Challenges are what we’re made of.

“I’ve been lucky that, in my time here, I’ve been involved with

great competitions against teams like Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea

and now City. There are no dull moments.

“We don’t run from challenges.”

There does seem something special about this particularly

rivalry, though.

The pain of that never-to-be-forgotten final day last season,

when United were technically champions when their last game was

completed at Sunderland, only to have the prize snatched away from

them by Sergio Aguero with virtually the last kick of the entire

campaign, was more acute for the fans because so many had to face

their City counterparts on the Manchester streets.

Even slightly detached in upmarket Cheshire, Ferguson lives in

close proximity to those of a blue persuasion.

Yet it seems the Scot has little interest in such niceties.

“I wasn’t happy to lose the title and I keep talking to the

players about that,” Ferguson said.

“But I have never entered into the revenge stuff – it doesn’t

work.

“Let’s be straight. At this club you can’t enjoy losing to

anyone because the consequences are always huge.

“When we lose we’re front-page news. We get used to that but we

don’t like losing, no matter who it is to.”

And while Ferguson plays down the impact opening up a six-point

lead on City would have on a title race that will not be decided

for over five months, any advantage would be accepted because the

Scot is wary the positive spin-offs City may eventually get from

their unexpectedly early exit from Europe, having missed out on the

Europa League this season with their defeat to Borussia Dortmund on

Tuesday.

“It’s obviously an advantage to City,” he said.

“Fewer games mean fewer chances of injuries and they get a full

week to prepare for games now.

“They do have a big squad – probably a bigger squad than most

teams – and they need to keep everyone happy.

“That, in itself, is a bit of an encumbrance in terms of the

manager picking the right teams and keeping everyone involved.

“And I do believe they’d rather have European football. That’s

the biggest disappointment for them.”