Van Persie the missing piece in the title jigsaw – Ferguson

2012-12-26 10:55

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Alex Ferguson has hailed Robin van Persie as the missing piece in Manchester United’s title jigsaw as the Premier League leaders bid to extend their lead at the top against Newcastle today.

Van Persie has made a superb start to his United career after leaving Arsenal in a £24 million (R332 million) move in preseason and the Dutch forward’s haul of 15 goals has fired Ferguson’s team four points clear of champions Manchester City heading into the hectic Christmas programme.

The 29-year-old’s dynamic displays have added an extra edge to United in the same way that French play maker Eric Cantona and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo galvanised previous teams in the Ferguson era.

After missing out on the title to City last season, United were in need of a new driving force this term and Ferguson believes Van Persie is providing it.

“I am reluctant to subscribe to the cult of an individual. But sometimes you find the last piece of the jigsaw,” Ferguson told United’s official match day programme.

“We did it when we brought Eric Cantona to Old Trafford and 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. 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.”

However, Ferguson’s side will be made to work hard by Newcastle, whose 1-0 win over struggling QPR last Saturday was only their second in eight league games, but it was enough to give manager Alan Pardew reason to be optimistic.

“We have definitely picked up. We look a little bit more resilient,” said Pardew.

“We got a very important clean sheet on Saturday and I think we will be in good heart for what is one of the toughest games of the programme, Manchester United away.”

How Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini must rue Van Persie’s decision to snub the champions in favour of joining United.

Mancini had hoped to make Van Persie the centrepiece of his team as he looked to build on last season’s title triumph, but instead he has had to watch the striker revitalise his club’s archrivals, while his own strike force has gone through a barren period.

Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko all laboured once more against Reading, the division’s bottom club, on Saturday and it was left to England midfielder Gareth Barry to show them how to do it with a stoppage-time winner.

United and City could be forgiven for regarding the title race as a strictly Manchester affair this season, especially as Chelsea have appeared on the verge of self-destructing at times.

But the Blues finally showed signs of emerging as a serious contender on Sunday, thanks to an 8-0 demolition of Aston Villa.

That victory left Chelsea 11 points behind United but with a game in hand and interim manager Rafael Benitez refuses to write off the prospect of a title challenge.

With Arsenal’s clash against West Ham postponed due to a strike on the tube, fifth-placed Everton, who host Wigan, Tottenham, who travel to Villa, and West Bromwich Albion, on their travels at QPR, all have a chance to move into the top four.

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