Alex Ferguson hails Van Persie as the new Cantona as United clinch title
Alex Ferguson hailed Robin van Persie as having a similar impact to 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.
"He has made a fantastic contribution to our season," Ferguson said.
"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 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."
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 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."