By ROB BEASLEY
ROBIN VAN PERSIE has two vivid visions of his future — one which excites him and another that leaves him utterly terrified.
The first sees a rampant RVP joyously plundering trophies at home and abroad with Manchester United.
For a man who went seven long years without winning a trophy at former club Arsenal, that is the exciting part.
But it is the long-term outlook that worries him — his life after football and those long, empty days once the thrill has gone.
And both scenarios loomed large for the superstar striker as he revelled in the afterglow of a job well done against Real Madrid in midweek.
United’s 29-year-old top scorer stood tall in one of football’s cathedrals and beamed: “This is why I came to Manchester United.
“I love games like that. I really do. Huge games against the top teams when you don’t know what’s going to happen.
“Where it is a thin line between winning and losing. I love the buzz, the excitement, the drama. I live for that.
“I just can’t imagine that day when I stop playing and it’s all over because I know I’ll miss the buzz so much. I’ll miss the big nights like this.
“This is one of the greatest games you can play in — Manchester United against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.
“And in three weeks we do it again at Old Trafford, which will also be special.
“Yes I know the smaller games are important too because they’re the games that make you champions.
“And when you are at United every game is big. But matches like these are the icing on the cake.
“Games against Manchester City and Liverpool in the Premier League and against Real in the Champions League are amazing.”
And the deadly Dutchman is now desperate to make up for lost time.
His only medals at Arsenal both came, funnily enough, against United, a 2004 Charity Shield win and a 2005 FA Cup penalty shootout triumph.
But in both he was a bit-part player, a late substitute on each occasion.
At Old Trafford he is undoubtedly the main man and finally he has that strong and welcome feeling that his trophy drought is about to become a flood.
He said: “The way this season is going it feels like it could be very special.
“We’re in a great position in the league and hopefully we can go far in the Champions League this season. But first let’s focus on Real.”
Do not confuse the obvious excitement and enthusiasm for complacency, someone who thinks United’s progression to the quarter-finals is now a formality after that fine 1-1 draw in Spain.
Van Persie snapped: “Oh no. We can’t afford to think the job is done. No way. But that’s not us, not in United’s DNA. We know teams like this — Barca, Real, Manchester United — don’t really bother about whether a game is home or away.
“If you’re a small club then yes it can make a difference but not for United. And not for Real.
“At the Bernabeu we didn’t care where the game was being played. If we’d been playing in the park down the street, we would have played the same way too.
“We are all top, experienced players who are used to games like that. We did well and it was an OK result.
“It could have gone better, it could have gone worse.”
Then with a wry smile he added: “It was almost fantastic, almost.”
Van Persie accepts he should have buried that 72nd-minute chance that Xabi Alonso crucially cleared off the line.
RVP shrugged: “That second chance just after I had hit the bar, that should go in. I slightly mishit it.
“I wanted to hit it hard but I couldn’t produce the power.”
It is his one regret from a memorable night. Especially as Real star striker Cristiano Ronaldo scored a great header.
But the United ace says the clash, billed as the match the world wanted to see, was not just a shootout between him and CR7.
He joked: “I usually always read the newspapers but I didn’t this week for that reason. This was not about me against Ronaldo. This was two great teams playing each other.
“The manager said ‘Don’t play the occasion, play the game’. We did.
“And it was a great match by both sides as they have unbelievable players as well. So it feels good.
“Normally when you have a high-profile game it can end up disappointing.
“But I don’t think anyone was disappointed with that match. I’m sure it was a great game to watch and it was a great one to play in too.
“We could’ve nicked it, they could’ve nicked it. Now it’s strange we must wait three weeks for the return leg.”
Van Persie is on a roll and wants the games to come thick and fast. Which is why he is keen to face Reading in the FA Cup tomorrow.
He said: “I like to play games straight in a row. I love that as I get into a rhythm and used to a game every three days. That’s why I want to play against Reading on Monday, I really hope so.”
Clearly an exciting prospect for Robin — just terrifying for Reading!