MANCHESTER: Manchester United, with four matches to go, are England’s league champions for a record-extending 20th time and that has only renewed maanger Sir Alex Ferguson’s will to carry on.

Last night’s 3-0 win over Aston Villa at Old Trafford was delivered by a magnificent hat-trick in the first 32 minutes from Robin Van Persie whose purchase, last summer from Arsenal, had made all the difference.

Ferguson said: “He has made a fantastic contribution to our season. In terms of impact he has as big as an impact as anyone I can imagine. Cantona was an incredible impact player and I have been 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 that was right.

“He’s in his mature years and winning the league meant the world to him.”

Asked if Van Persie’s volleyed 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.”

Mancini view

Ferguson also responded to Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini’s contention that the only difference between the two sides this season had been in “attitude”.

“He’s right in one respect,” said Ferguson, “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.

He said: “We’ve won most of our games, drawn three, lost four, and the [van Persie] goal, 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.

“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.”


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