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Fergie likens RvP to Cantona

ESPN staff
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Sir Alex Ferguson has likened Robin van Persie's impact at Manchester United to when Eric Cantona arrived at Old Trafford in 1992.

United were left licking their wounds in the summer after being pipped to the Premier League title by Manchester City, but they made a statement of intent by swooping to sign Van Persie from Arsenal.

The Netherlands international has made a big impact since arriving at the club - he has 15 goals to his name - and he has made a huge impression on his manager who has compared him to arguably his greatest piece of transfer business.

"I reckon here at Manchester United we got our Christmas present early - right at the start of the season in fact, when Robin van Persie arrived at Old Trafford," Ferguson wrote in his column for Wednesday's United Review.

"I am reluctant to subscribe to the cult of an individual because I firmly believe that the essence of a successful football team depends on team-work, and neither are we a one-man team, but sometimes there really is a situation where you are lucky enough to find the last piece of the jigsaw.

"We did it when we brought Eric Cantona to Old Trafford where he proved to be the right player at the right club at the right time. He became the catalyst and springboard for our surge to success. It doesn't have to be signing someone for a record fee; Eric was in fact a snip at a million. Cristiano Ronaldo was not a record buy either but he certainly made a difference as he prospered with us to the extent that he came to be regarded by a lot of people as the world's best player.

"We didn't pay a ransom for van Persie either, but as I take stock as we approach the halfway point of the season, I have no hesitation saying that he has made a vital difference to our chances of making our mark in this season's title race."

United dropped points at Swansea on Sunday and they will look to get back on track when Newcastle arrive at Old Trafford on Boxing Day. Newcastle have struggled to match last season's efforts, but got a confidence boost by beating QPR at the weekend and will look to build on that.

Manchester United player to watch:
Van Persie has been the star man for the Red Devils, but Wayne Rooney will be the man in focus. He had a stinker against Swansea, but his record is quite brilliant against Newcastle - he has 10 goals to his name against the Magpies and he may feel he has a point to prove.

Newcastle United player to watch:
With Rooney and Van Persie operating in tandem for the home side, Newcastle will in all probability spend a lot of time in their own third. With that in mind, they will need their captain to stand up and be counted. Fabricio Coloccini has flourished under the responsibility of being the main man at the back for Newcastle and he will need to be on top form at Old Trafford.

Betting:
The Premier League leaders have found it tough in many games this season, often falling behind. This could be a bit of a spur and we favour a draw at half-time with the home side to then go on and win. That's 11/4 with bet365

Prediction: 3-1

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