O’Neill hails Man Utd striker van Persie

Having watched on as his Sunderland side succumbed to a 3-1 defeat by Manchester United, Martin O’Neill has hailed Robin van Persie as the potential difference-maker in the race for the Premier League title, the Daily Mirror has reported.

The Black Cats boss went as far as to compare the influence of van Persie on Sir Alex Ferguson’s team with that of Lionel Messi on Barcelona, pointing to the talismanic effect such a potent goal threat can have. Van Persie scored the first goal of the game, revealed by the Mirror to be the 1,500th goal of Ferguson’s time at United.

Van Persie’s goal was also his 15th of the season for United, coming in 21 appearances, and his fourth goal in as many games as Ferguson gets an early return on the money paid to Arsenal in the summer for the Netherlands international. O’Neill feels as well that it was money well spent.

United have paid close on £30m for a player who had just one year left on his contract, so that might tell you how valuable they perceive him to be,” O’Neill said. “But it’s not the perception that matters – the reality is he has been fantastic and you always felt United would give themselves a big edge by getting van Persie.

He can conjure goals out of very little. It looks like nothing is happening and then all of a sudden he has opened up a gap. If he stays fit, that will make a massive difference to United’s title challenge.

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