x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Title-winning Manchester United team will join all-time greats, says Sir Alex Ferguson

The veteran manager hailed the signing of Robin Van Persie as having a similar impact to Eric Cantona on Manchester United after his hat-trick clinched the English Premier League title.

Sir Alex Ferguson and Robin Van Persie celebrate Manchester United's 20th championship win.
Sir Alex Ferguson and Robin Van Persie celebrate Manchester United's 20th championship win.

Sir Alex Ferguson believes Robin Van Persie has had the same impact on newly crowned English Premier League champions Manchester United as Eric Cantona did on his arrival at the club.

The £24m (Dh132.6m) forward proved a vital part of United's bid to regain the championship from Manchester City following his summer arrival from Arsenal.

The player capped off a season that has already seen him score 24 league goals for the club with a hat-trick against Aston Villa to clinch the trophy last night.

And Ferguson hailed the Dutchman's influence as being on a par with Old Trafford legend Cantona.

"He has made a fantastic contribution to our season," Ferguson said after the win against Villa.

"In terms of impact he has as big as an impact as anyone I can imagine. Cantona was an incredible impact player and I have been very, very lucky, I have had some fantastic strikers right through, probably 10 great strikers at the club.

"I think we had an expectation. His performance for Arsenal last year was sensational and I remember Arsene saying to me 'he's a better player than you think' when we concluded the deal and I think he was right.

"He's in his mature years and winning the league meant the world to him."

It also ended a long wait for a Premier League title for 29-year-old Van Persie after years of trying with the Gunners.

Asked if Van Persie's second was a contender for goal of the season honours, Ferguson added: "Of the century for me. It was a marvellous hit, head down, over the ball, perfect timing - a magnificent strike.

"He's been unbelievable, his early form in the first six months was fantastic. He had the spell where he didn't score but he was unbelievable tonight."

Ferguson also had a dig at Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini who had said the only difference between the two sides this season had been in "attitude".

"He's right in one respect - in the games between the two of us there has been nothing in it," the Old Trafford manager said.

"But the rest of them we have been far better, we are a far better team than Manchester City in beating other teams. That's not recognised by him.

"When the two teams meet there's nothing in it, I agree with him in that respect. Apart from that stupid performance by us at Old Trafford which cost us the league last season, and we won't make that mistake again, the games have been close."

Ferguson also believes this squad of players stands equal with any of his sides of the past.

"We've won most of our games, drawn three, lost four, and the [van Persie] goal, all the great goals we've scored over the years, from David Beckham through Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Eric Cantona, that goal has joined that. These players have joined the pedestal," he said.

"I think Rafael will eventually be comparable to Gary Neville; Jones, Ferdinand, Evans, Vidic are comparable to all the other centre-backs we have had.

"I'm not saying they are better but great players are great players and the nostalgia thing does play tricks with your mind."