The German international admits it’s been painful to watch his former team-mate fire his new club to the Premier League title this season, but still chose him as Player of the Year
Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker admits it hurt to see former team-mate Robin van Persie in a Manchester United shirt.
Sunday sees Van Persie return to the Emirates Stadium for the first time since his £24 million move to Old Trafford last summer, and he does so as a Premier League winner after his hat-trick against Aston Villa last Monday sealed United’s 20th league title.
Mertesacker is now keen for him and his Arsenal team-mates to show their former striker that the Gunners are not feeling his absence.
“Robin started so well straight away at United,” the 28-year-old German centre-back told the Daily Mirror. “At Arsenal, we asked each other ‘how can he hurt us like that?’
“He scored decisive goals right from the start. As players, we spoke a lot of times about it when we travelled or just when United played and Robin had scored. It was hard because we knew that last season he had been rescuing us a lot of times. He would score a lot of goals for Arsenal at the end of the game.
“But now we have the chance to show Robin was not responsible for our whole team. He has gone and we have replaced him well. It is not just about one player replacing Robin, we have four of five players who have around 10 goals this season. We needed more players to replace him.”
Mertesacker also revealed that the majority of the Arsenal squad, including himself, voted for the Dutchman as PFA Player of the Year.
He added: “Of course, I voted for Robin in the PFA awards. With his qualities, he just delivers every year. I think most of the Arsenal team voted for him. He is a world-class player.
“Robin was and still is very respected here and he was my team-mate, so he is not out of my mind completely. I still have his number.”