Sir Alex Ferguson thinks the impact made by Robin Van Persie since his arrival at Old Trafford is similar to that made by former-Manchester United stars Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Van Persie joined United from Arsenal in a £24m summer deal, and has gone to score 15 goals in his first 22 Manchester United appearances - including a host of crucial match-winners against the likes of Southampton and Manchester City.

And Ferguson paid tribute to Van Persie, claiming the Dutchman has made a sensational impact at the club, much like Cristiano Ronaldo and Eric Cantona.

"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," writes the manager 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."

Ferguson was also full of admiration for the Dutchman's professional attitude, and his capacity for improving the play of his teammates.

The Manchester United boss continued: "I have really lost count of our Dutchman's assists. It is quite remarkable how quickly he has settled at Old Trafford. It helped I think that he relished the move to Manchester and he is the consummate professional.

"He has a good lifestyle with a great sense of responsibility. For instance I have noticed the way he will speak to the young players and encourage them. That attitude is a real bonus for us."

United were held at the weekend, drawing 1-1 against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium, but Sir Alex Ferguson's side remain top of the Premier League table. Title rivals Manchester City did close the gap however, as Gareth Barry snatched a last-minute winner at home to Reading to nick a 1-0 victory at the Etihad Stadium.

Next up for the Red Devils is Newcastle at Old Trafford on Boxing Day, and Ferguson will hope Nemanja Vidic, who completed 90 minutes against the Swans, will continue his strong recovery from injury.

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Robin Van Persie
Football
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Manchester United