London - Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has backed Robin van Persie to emulate Eric Cantona's influential spell at Old Trafford.
Van Persie has made a superb start to his United career after leaving Arsenal in a £24 million move and the Dutch forward's haul of 15 goals in 21 matches has fired Ferguson's team to the top of the Premier League and into the last 16 of the Champions League.
The 29-year-old's dynamic displays have added an extra edge to United's play in the same way that French forward Cantona galvanised the club when he arrived from Leeds in 1992.
Back then, United were searching for a winning formula after 26 years without an English title and Cantona's supreme confidence and talent proved the catalyst to end that drought.
After missing out on the title to Manchester City last season, United were in need of a similar spark this term and Ferguson believes Van Persie is providing it.
“He has a similar profile to Eric in terms of age and maturity,” Ferguson said in an interview with Eurosport-Yahoo.
“He had a great spell at Arsenal so there is no issue with him needing to settle into the Premier League.
“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.”
Even with van Persie and Wayne Rooney still working at their partnership, United have already shown a far greater attacking threat than last season, but Ferguson knows having Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez in reserve could also prove crucial down the home stretch.
“Having four is a definite advantage,” said Ferguson, whose team won the treble in 1999 with an attacking quartet of Dwight Yorke, Teddy Sheringham, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Andy Cole.
“It is difficult to manage but they didn't complain too much back then as long as they got their share of playing and they all made their contribution.
“Hopefully this will apply with the players again. But they will all contribute this season, there is no question about that.”
United's impressive form and six-point lead at the top of the Premier League mean there is little pressure on Ferguson to make a splash when the transfer window reopens.
Ferguson has generally been reluctant to conduct any business in the January window in any case and, asked if there were areas of his squad he wanted to strengthen, he said: “No. The January transfer market has never been the best market and that has proved itself over the years.
“You get very few big transfers, all the big transfers are done in the summer.”