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A two-word phrase has entered the sporting lexicon in 2012 thanks to Dave Brailsford and his army of rather good cyclists. It's a phrase now so embedded in the mainstream that even Gary Lineker can say it without looking confused. That two-word phrase is 'small gains' - encapsulating the concept that in a sport often decided by micro-seconds, the tiniest adjustment can be the difference between success and failure.
Sir Alex Ferguson could have cited that same phrase when people questioned his purchase of the 29-year-old Robin van Persie for £24m and £200,000-a-week wages. Having lost the Premier League title on goal difference, only small gains were required. When you're that good already - and the potential rewards are so great - small gains come at large prices. Ferguson's unwritten rules about refusing to pay transfer fees for players with little sell-on value were forgotten in the pursuit of the one player he knew could be the difference between first and second.
Van Persie's purchase was even described as a 'farewell present to Fergie' by one Mail on Sunday report that quoted a source as saying: "Alex will only be manager for a couple more years so it was time the owners gave him what he wanted. And that was Van Persie. What is a few million? It could be the difference that helps Alex win the Champions League again."
It's difficult to argue that the Dutchman's arrival has magically made United the best team in Europe, but it's clear that Van Persie's contribution could be enough to bridge the smallest of gaps between the Manchester clubs.
Unfortunately, the much bigger gap between the Manchester clubs and the chasing Premier League pack is rather more than one player wide. Much more than 'small gains' are needed to transform Chelsea, Tottenham or Arsenal into Premier League champions. So while it made sense for Ferguson to throw his economic principles out of the window to capture Van Persie, is it really sensible for Arsene Wenger to do the same to bring in Klaas-Jan Huntelaar?
Talk of a £100,000-a-week three-year contract for a 29-year-old striker (who is not Van Persie) is anathema to Wenger's methods. When Mikel Arteta was bought at the same age, he was asked to take a pay cut to reflect the fact that he would have little sell-on value, but Arsenal cannot request that Huntelaar does the same as he counts down to being able to name his price in the summer when his Schalke contract ends.
The Dutchman has consistently scored goals for the majority of his career but the difference between his prowess and that of the 26-year-old Olivier Giroud is not nearly enough to merit him becoming the club's highest wage earner. In fact, Giroud has scored a goal every 275 minutes of Premier League football to Huntelaar's goal every 291 Bundesliga minutes this season. The difference is negligible and it seems likely that the younger and - in wage terms at least - cheaper Giroud will improve as Huntelaar's powers decline.
Huntelaar did score 29 Bundesliga goals for Schalke last season but that's the only time he has edged into double-figure territory outside of Holland (incidentally, striker Jozy Altidore scored one Premier League goal for Hull City but currently has 11 in 16 Eredivisie games for AZ this season). This is not to decry a striker who has scored an astonishing 34 goals in 59 international games - but £100,000 a week? At the age of 29? The gap to the title is way too wide for such a small gain.