On Monday night, Danny Welbeck, raised in the Manchester United academy and sold to Arsenal just seven months ago, scored the winning goal to put Arsenal through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup at Wembley.
David De Gea came running out of goal after a defensive mishap, Welbeck tapped the ball past him and the ex-United player slotted the ball calmly into an open net.
His celebration wasn’t exactly demur. He whooped and screamed with his new teammates, almost blowing little Santi Cazorla away.
Was this okay to celebrate such a goal against your boyhood club; the club you still probably – secretly – support?
Is it ever okay?
Or is not celebrating against a club you left a little patronising?
If you’re going to leave for another team, is there any point in pretending that you’re still part of the old one?
At some point in time, players stopped celebrating against their old teams.
If players scored, their head would drop, they’d elicit a solemn nod and hold their hands up at their teammates to stop them from leaping all over them.
On Monday evening, Welbeck did no such thing.
A quick search on Twitter and the verdict seems pretty open.
Some United fans were livid, whereas some – if not most – either understood or simply didn’t care.
When ex-Arsenal players score and celebrate against us, I’ve seen a lot more anger directed at the player.
I suspect the fan reaction has a lot more to do with the circumstances surrounding the departure of the player.
For example, the situation surrounding Robin Van Persie leaving us compared with Welbeck leaving United is very different.
Louis Van Gaal readily admitted to selling Welbeck because he wasn’t scoring enough goals. Most of the United fans were disappointed that he was going and wished him well; I saw very little vitriol aimed at Welbeck and if there was any anger over the loss of their young striker, it was aimed at Van Gaal for selling him.
However, Van Persie left Arsenal because he got itchy feet.
He was at the peak of his career after just winning the golden boot and left for greener pastures and a bigger pay cheque. He fell into bed with the enemy after we’d nursed him through a career fraught with injuries and controversy, and the worst part was that he didn’t actually seem to care at all.
He reeled off a half-hearted statement on his website (“hey guys”) before our club could announce the news itself.
He spoke about not agreeing with our club’s direction and was gone before we’d even finished the final sentence. After he’d left, he spat out a couple of standard clichés about respecting our club etc etc, the stuff your agent makes you say so you don’t seem like so much of a prize p- … you know.
The first time Van Persie scored against us, he didn’t celebrate. It was muted and he bowed his head like the martyr he is and this actually irked me.
The faux show of respect was more about looking like a ‘good guy’ than actually being a good guy. More about what he knew the fans were chanting at him from the stands and the press were talking about in the papers than actually having any humility or compassion for the club he’d been with for eight years.
We saw through it.
It seemed more like pity than respect and boy, did that leave a bitter taste.
When Van Persie celebrated against us last season at Old Trafford, it was a relief. As he slid across the pitch on his knees towards ‘Wazza’ (gags), I thought “finally”.
He’s finally stopped this bizarre display of pseudo-affection for a team he essentially screwed over.
A manager whom he gave two fingers to.
He’s stopped feeling sorry for the poor little North London team he’d once – supposedly – proudly worn the shirt of.
We were under no illusion that he had any respect for the club so why pretend?
How long is long enough?
Another thought sprung to mind when I saw Samir Nasri celebrating with his Manchester City teammates when they scored at the Emirates a couple of seasons ago.
He’d been gone a while – since 2011, in fact, and this seemed to take the edge off my anger. That, and the fact he didn’t actually score himself.
He’d stopped the ‘once a gunner, always a gunner’ B.S. that the majority of ex-players spout while simultaneously dancing across the country to open another bank account. Although he was still spewing strange things in the press like a scorned lover, his public jibes had calmed down a bit.
He realised he owed us nothing.
Not his words, not his explanations, not his respect.
His celebrating doesn’t bother me.
Celebrate away, mercenary. You’re old news, kid.
Feelings, such strong feelings
Obviously there is a line.
Although I don’t expect ex-players to pull an Adebayor and leg-it the length of the pitch just to celebrate in front of us, I also don’t expect them to hold back.
Saying this, my views when it comes to Cesc are completely hypocritical and I fully realise this.
If he was to score and celebrate against us, even after being gone for so long, I would be hurt.
And this goes against everything I just said and all my logical thinking.
Again, I think this is more to do with him, our boy, joining yet another one of our enemies. In the same city, no less. He’s canoodling with our next door neighbour under our very noses.
Yes, I realise Wenger was apparently offered him (I’m suspicious about whether he genuinely would’ve joined us if Wenger had said yes but that’s a conversation for another day); yes, I realise Wenger said no.
Yes, I realise we have Mesut Ozil who I am just about ready to propose to.
Yes, I realise I’m a sentimental sap.
Does that make it hurt any less? I wish it did, but no.
However, my overall point still stands: if you’ve just scored for your new team, stop thinking about the old one.
Get on with it.
Just don’t expect us to hold back when we score against you: our rival.