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Van Persie 'will always respect Arsenal fans'

ESPN staff
April 28, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Robin van Persie is ready to make his Arsenal return © Getty Images
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Manchester United striker Robin van Persie says a potentially hostile atmosphere will not hurt him as he returns to face his former club Arsenal.

Van Persie, the Premier League's top scorer this season, has been a vital part of United's run to the Premier League title - after departing Arsenal in controversial circumstances last summer.

The Dutchman can expect to receive a villain's welcome at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, but insists he will always respect Arsenal fans and understands why they might feel aggrieved.

"I don't expect anything less than a lively atmosphere - but it doesn't hurt," he told The Sun. "I have always respected the Arsenal fans and always will. They love their club so I understand their feelings.

"Players, staff, managers and even directors come and go, but fans will always stick with their team. So I am looking forward to playing at the Emirates again. I have good memories there. And it will be good to see my old colleagues, staff and friends again."

Meanwhile, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has vowed the side will be a threat to United in the near future.

Wenger's showdowns with United boss Sir Alex Ferguson were the showpiece matches of the English top flight season not so long ago, with the rival managers doing little to disguise the dislike they shared for each other.

Their relationship has thawed considerably in recent years and many cynics have suggested that is due to Ferguson's belief that Arsenal are no longer a serious rival to his United side, but Wenger is determined to put that right.

"We will be a threat to United again, don't worry," Wenger told reporters. "Does Ferguson only respect people who are not competing with him? You will have to ask him that. The reality is we are 20 points behind United this season and that is linked to our bad start to the season, so we have to do something about that next time."

Wenger joined Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini in suggested United's commanding lead at the top of the Premier League table is not a sign that they are so far ahead of their rivals, as the Arsenal boss suggested the chasing pack can haul in Ferguson's side sooner rather than later.

"Mancini is right to say the gap is closer, I agree completely with him," he stated. "Man City is for sure a good side who can compete with United. We are not as far behind as it seems you know.

"The other teams were not as close this year and that made it easier for United. This year was one way traffic and United have been quietly efficient."

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