Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson recently compared Dutch striker Robin van Persie with United legend Eric Cantona.
Ferguson told Eurosport-Yahoo:
“He has a similar profile to Eric in terms of age and maturity. 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 outstanding form from Arsenal to his new club who are currently at the top of the Premier League table with a six-point lead over rivals Manchester City. Whilst, he has scored 15 goals already this season in all competitions, the £24 million summer signing is still someway away from achieving the success of Cantona. But the Dutchman looks likely to give it his best shot. He is only 10 goals off Cantona’s tally for his first full season at United back in 1993/94. The Red Devils won the league that season, along with the FA Cup and the Frenchman was named the PFA Players’ Player of the Year.
Cantona was 27 when he signed for the Old Trafford club from their fierce rivals, Leeds United for a fee of £1.2 million, but, at that time, it was considered a marquee signing by Ferguson. In his 5 years at the club, Cantona won four Premier League titles and two FA Cups. Van Persie signed a four-year contract with club this summer, he will be around 33 upon its expiry and well into the twilight of his career. For him to follow in the footsteps of Cantona, United would have to win the next four successive league campaigns – including the current one – and two FA Cups but for that Van Persie will have to remain fit.
Last season at Arsenal the Dutchman almost doubled the United legend’s best goal-tally in a season and he looks set to repeat it this term for United. There are some questions whether he can keep up with the pace and power of the Premier League as he enters his thirties, but there are no doubts that he has the class and quality to be a top performer for the remainder of his contract.
One thing Van Persie will never be able to emulate is the impact Cantona had, not only on Manchester United, but also on the Premier League and the world of football. The boldness and charisma of ‘King Eric’ is unmatched in football today and perhaps we may not see another Cantona for a very long time.