As it transpired, the Dutch striker came back to haunt his former employers within the opening three minutes when he broke the deadlock.
Wayne Rooney then missed a penalty for the hosts, before Patrice Evra doubled his side's lead in the second half. Santi Cazorla found the net in stoppage time, but it was too late for Arsenal to mount a comeback.
Here, Sports Mole decides whether the result was a fair one or not.
On target 7
On target 3
Was the result fair?
Overall Arsenal can have little complaint that they will be heading back down South without a share of the spoils. They had long spells in possession, but rarely troubled David de Gea in the United goal. On the other hand, the home side created plenty and perhaps should have scored more.
Man United's performance
The main criticism of United's performance was the fact they didn't win the match more comfortably. Rooney's penalty miss aside, Van Persie, Antonio Valencia and Anderson also passed up good opportunities. What will have impressed Sir Alex Ferguson though was the fact that his side looked more solid when defending.
Not that they needed reminding, but this match highlighted just how much they miss Van Persie. Arsenal saw plenty of the ball, but there was a lack of movement and creativity in the final third of the pitch.
Sports Mole's man of the match
Wayne Rooney: He may have missed a penalty, but apart from that, Rooney was almost faultless today. He's playing in a new position these days and looks to be enjoying it greatly. There may not have been the goal that he craved, but some of his passing and the workrate that he put in was a joy to watch.
Arsene Wenger will have probably have told his side to keep it tight in the opening exchanges. So for Thomas Vermaelen to gift Van Persie possession on the edge of the box with three minutes gone and the Dutch international scoring as a consequence - Wenger will have been fuming!
Mike Dean issued a large number of cards today, but pretty much all of them were warranted. He was right to send off Jack Wilshere for two bookable offences and the penalty award was also correct. However, he made a mistake in not issuing United midfielder Tom Cleverley a second yellow card for a mistimed challenge on Wilshere early in the second half.
Man United: Following a Champions League trip to Braga, the new league leaders travel to Paul Lambert's Aston Villa.
Arsenal: Like United, Arsenal are on the road in the Champions League in the week when they travel to Schalke 04. Then on Saturday Fulham are the visitors to the Emirates Stadium for a London derby.