Ferguson hails rockin’ Robin

Manchester United manager singles out striker’s contribution to a 20th league title

Manchester United’s Robin van Persie (right) scores his team’s second goal in a 3-0 win over Aston Villa at Old Trafford to caim a 20th league title. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

Manchester United’s Robin van Persie (right) scores his team’s second goal in a 3-0 win over Aston Villa at Old Trafford to caim a 20th league title. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

Tue, Apr 23, 2013, 09:40

Alex Ferguson hailed Robin van Persie as having a similar impact as Eric Cantona after the Dutch striker’s hat-trick secured a 20th league title for Manchester United.

Van Persie’s treble in a 3-0 win against Aston Villa at Old Trafford included a stunning volley and Ferguson admitted the summer signing from Arsenal had been crucial.

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

Ferguson said: “He has made a fantastic contribution to our season. In terms of impact he has had 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 (Wenger) 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 tonight meant the world to him.”

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”.

The United boss added: “He’s right in one respect — in the games between the two of us there has been nothing in it. 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 goal tonight... 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.”

Ferguson said the title tasted as good as all the others bar his first. He added: “It’s always special when you win it. What the players had to do is focus on how they lost the league last year and make no mistakes really.

“You win the title and it doesn’t matter which year it feels the same, but maybe the first one is the best one as it took away all the pressure for many years.

“I’m delighted for all the players, for myself, the staff and the supporters.

“You can go on and on about losing a title (last season) but at the end of the day, our consistency for the last 20 years is unbelievable.

“The focus of the team was good, they focused on the challenge of City and came up trumps.”

Asked about his own future plans, he joked: “Look at me — it’s taken 10 years off me today. It’s these tablets, they’re great!”