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After losing the league by the finest of margins last season, Van Persie's arrival at Manchester United gives them the sort of boost that could help them over the line this time.

 Brendon Netto
 Comment |England
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For those who witnessed Manchester United’s latest home fixture, the 3-1 scoreline against Sunderland would have seemed most comfortable but it is this sort of game that could have left United undone last season. In a game that had the ingredients of being a frustrating encounter for the hosts, Robin Van Persie stepped up to score the opening goal to get the ball rolling and then played a huge part in the third which gave his side plenty of breathing space and they really should have scored a few more.

When the Red Devils finished second to Leeds United back in 1992, Sir Alex Ferguson went out and secured a deal that made all the difference in the following season. Eric Cantona was drafted in for £1.2 million and the Frenchman proved to be the catalyst for a young United side who were lacking that bit of composure in the final third.

Cantona was the catalyst in the 90's

When Cantona took the stage at ‘The Theatre of Dreams’, he resembled a maestro, orchestrating wave after wave of United attacks with his collar up and baton in hand. Although Van Persie is not the same kind of player, Sir Alex had hinted at the Dutchman possibly having a similar impact on the current United side and the former Arsenal skipper hasn’t disappointed so far.

Wayne Rooney was prolific for the Manchester outfit last season but Van Persie has quite simply added some gloss to United’s already impressive attack. The 29 year-old not only graces his new side with his prolific presence but his ability to link up with the other players in the final third adds that bit of creativity and guile to United’s front line as well.

However, a truly admirable and rare quality that Van Persie possesses is his knack for scoring crucial goals. He has scored the decisive goal six times already this season, five of which were in the league. That’s five games in the league where his goals converted draws to wins for United which results in a ten-point difference.

He has a knack for clinching winning goals

On Saturday, Van Persie once again justified the money the club spent on him over the summer as he followed up his injury-time derby winner from last week with a cool finish against Sunderland that took his tally to 12 in the league and kept him at the top of the goal-scoring charts alongside Swansea City’s Michu.

Meanwhile, Rooney could have had a hat-trick but was unable to replicate his clinical finishing against Manchester City. It pointed to the fact that the Englishman, while being a fantastic all-round player, doesn’t quite match Van Persie when it comes to leading the line. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though as Rooney is much better utilized when he plays in a more withdrawn role where he is able to be more involved and his ability to track back and support the midfield puts him ahead of his teammate in that position.

On the other hand, Van Persie has the intelligent movement and aptitude to bring others into play that is essential to any front man. He is the kind of striker that United have lacked in recent years. What sets him apart from most prolific strikers is his skill and ability to pick a pass. His assist for United’s third goal against Sunderland was a prime example as he manoeuvered the ball into a good position before effortlessly cutting inside the defender and squaring it for his teammate to tap in.

His assist epotimized his creativity up front

While Van Persie has so swiftly endeared himself to the Old Trafford faithful and they have relished watching him in action, they will most certainly rue the fact that he’s found his way to the red half of Manchester so late in his career. However, one could argue that it may be a blessing in disguise and is probably perfect timing.

He has always been an outstanding player despite his injuries and rumour has it that United considered signing him before he joined Arsenal. However, the Dutch international has brought a level of maturity and composure to his game in the past couple of years which makes him instrumental to Ferguson’s side now. His age isn’t exactly ideal but perhaps necessary for him to fulfil his responsibilities at his new club.

Drogba battled on for Chelsea at 34

In all likelihood, Ferguson may be able to squeeze out every last drop of football Van Persie has left in him. Didier Drogba performed at the highest level for Chelsea until the end of last season at the ripe old age of 34 and many suggest that they could do with his services at present as well. There’s no reason why Van Persie can’t strive to play until he’s of a similar age and if United manage to get a good four or five seasons out of him, they would be most pleased.

Following last season’s disappointing end, United are all too familiar with the fine margins of success in arguably the most competitive league in football. Van Persie’s acquisition affords them a cutting-edge that could be critical to their success this time around just as it was in last week's derby and on several other occasions this season. Arsene Wenger once described Van Persie as ‘Bergkamp with goals’. Quite simply put, he is the complete striker and then some.

Can Van Persie fire United to a 20th league title? Leave your comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.

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