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English Premiership

Van Persie treble fires United to 20th title

RVP-VILLAMANCHESTER, United Kingdom, April 23- Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson claimed Robin van Persie’s breathtaking second goal in their title-clinching 3-0 win over Aston Villa proved his side deserve a place in history.

Van Persie lashed home a stunning first-time volley from 20 yards in the 13th minute of Monday’s game at Old Trafford as United sank Villa to secure an unprecedented 20th English league title.

The Dutch striker had already opened the scoring after just 83 seconds and he completed his hat-trick before half-time with a composed finish from Ryan Giggs’ pass.

Victory gave United an unassailable 16-point lead over second-place Manchester City with four games of the season to spare and brought Ferguson his 13th league title since he joined the club in 1986.

United have sparkled only intermittently this season, prompting accusations they do not merit comparison with some of Ferguson’s previous title-winners, but he said goals like van Persie’s showed that was not the case.

“It’s dead easy to say that — nostalgia plays tricks on people’s minds. You do it yourself. You say, ‘Things were not the same as when I was a boy,’ but it is nostalgia,” he said.

“Put it in context — we’ve now got 84 points with four games left. We’ve never done that.

“We’ve won most of our games, drawn three, lost four, and the goal tonight… All the great goals we’ve scored over the years, from David Beckham through Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Eric Cantona, that goal has joined that.”

Van Persie’s treble took his tally for the season to 24 league goals and Ferguson likened him to French striker Cantona, who inspired the club to end a 26-year wait for the title after arriving from Leeds United in 1992.

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“In terms of impact, he has had as big as an impact as anyone I can imagine,” the United manager said.

“Cantona was an incredible impact player and I have been very, very lucky I have had some fantastic strikers right through, probably 10 great strikers at the club.

“I think we had an expectation. His performance for Arsenal last year was sensational and I remember (Arsenal manager) Arsene (Wenger) saying to me, ‘He’s a better player than you think,’ when we concluded the deal, and I think he was right.”

Ferguson was also surprisingly effusive in his praise of United’s 21-year-old centre-back Phil Jones, declaring: “You saw Jones tonight. Arguably, the way he is looking, he could be our best ever player.”

The Scot showed less generosity towards City manager Roberto Mancini, who he accused of showing United a lack of recognition by declaring the two title rivals were as strong as each other.

“He’s right in one respect — in the games between the two of us there has been nothing in it,” Ferguson said.

“But the rest of them (games against other teams), we have been far better. We are a far better team than Manchester City in beating other teams. That’s not recognised by him.”

Ferguson, 71, has now won 49 senior honours in his 39-year managerial career, but evergreen midfielder Giggs says there is no sign of his hunger to succeed being sated.

“His appetite is second to none. Every day at the training ground, he’s the first there, his enthusiasm is brilliant and that feeds through the club. He is the club,” Giggs told Sky Sports.

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“Everything comes from the manager: getting players in, getting the right staff in, and he’s just an unbelievable manager and an unbelievable person and he deserves everything that he gets.”

Fourth-bottom Villa were left to contemplate the prospect of a crucial home game with Sunderland on Monday as their battle to avoid relegation goes on.

“They are getting better. I still think that so many things can happen between now and the end of the season,” said manager Paul Lambert.

“We have got a massive game Monday night and we have to try to win that.”

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