Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has compared Dutch striker Robin van Persie with United legend Eric Cantona.
"He has a similar profile to Eric in terms of age and maturity," Ferguson told Eurosport-Yahoo, adding,
"He came from one big club to another big club and he is an established international. All these things in his profile suited us perfectly."
Van Persie has carried his scintillating form at Arsenal last season where he was the Golden Boot winner, the PFA and PWA Player of the Year, to his new club who are currently the Premier League leaders by a six-point margin.
Whilst he’s scored 15 goals already this season in all competitions, the £24 million man, the Dutchman’s still someway away from achieving the success of Cantona – and it’s unlikely any other player will come close to making an equivalent impact on a club in the modern era of the game.
But van Persie looks likely to give it hit best shot – he’s only 10 goals off Cantona’s tally for his first full season at United back in 1993/94. United won the Premier League that season, along with the FA Cup and the Charity Shield and Cantona went on to win the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award for his contribution.
Cantona was 27 when he arrived at Old Trafford from Leeds United – he cost the club £1.2 million but, at the time, was considered an expensive marquee signing by Ferguson.
In his 5 years at the club, Cantona won 4 Premier League titles, 2 FA Cups, and 3 Charity Shields. Robin van Persie signed a 4-year contract with the club this year – now 29, he’ll be coming up to 33 upon its expiry and well into the twilight of his career.
For him to truly emulate the success of Cantona, United would have to win the next four successive league campaigns, including the current one which, in their current shape and form, doesn’t sound like much of an ask. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if United won 2 FA Cups in that time frame, a few Community Shields, or even a Champion’s League title to be honest but, crucially, van Persie will have to remain fit.
Last season at Arsenal the Dutchman almost doubled the United legends best goal-tally in a season, not quite but almost, and he looks set to replicate a similar standard this term for United. I have my reservations as to whether he can keep up with the pace and power of the Premier League as he enters his thirties but I have no doubts that he possesses the class and quality to be a top performer for the remainder of his contract.
The one thing van Persie will never be able to emulate is the impact Cantona had, not only on the club, but also on the league itself and, beyond that, the world. The audacity and charisma of the Frenchman is unparalleled in the league today and I’m inclined to suggest we won’t see another Cantona for a very long time.
image: © lordcolus