Robin van Persie's impact at Manchester United has been similar to the stunning transformation brought about by the signing of Eric Cantona, according to manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
Dutch striker Van Persie has scored 15 goals since signing from Arsenal, drawing comparisons with Frenchman Cantona whose arrival at Old Trafford was the catalyst for United to win the league title for the first time in 26 years.
"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 has written in the programme for Wednesday's home game against Newcastle United.
"I am reluctant to subscribe to the cult of an individual because I firmly believe the essence of a successful football team depends on teamwork, 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."
Cantona was signed from Leeds United for £1.2 million in 1992 with Ferguson's team languishing in eighth place in the table.
But he galvanised the side with his flair and a regular supply of goals, his arrogance and charisma inspiring a team who went on to win the 1993 title by 10 points, the first of Ferguson's 12 Premier League crowns.
"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," Ferguson said.
"He became the catalyst and springboard for our surge to success.
"It doesn't have to be signing someone for a record fee. 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," added Ferguson.
Van Persie has formed a prolific attacking partnership with Wayne Rooney which has lifted United four points clear at the top of the Premier League and on course for a 20th English title.
They lost out to neighbours Manchester City on goal difference last season after the teams finished level on points at the end of the 38-match campaign.comments