Following Sunderland's 3-1 loss to Manchester United on Saturday, manager Martin O'Neill has praised Robin van Persie, comparing the Dutch striker to Lionel Messi. Van Persie put in a man of the match display against the Black Cats and has had a stellar start to his new club career.
O'Neill believes that van Persie influences matches for United in much the same way that Messi does for Barcelona. O'Neill particularly praised the way that van Persie has a knack for turning nothing into something and his ability to change the course of a game. Van Persie has scored 15 goals in all competitions (12 in the Premier League) so far for the Red Devils and his partnership with Wayne Rooney looks set to become one of the most dangerous in world football.
"[Van Persie] can get goals out of very little," O'Neill said. "It looks like nothing is happening, you have players in the area, but all of a sudden he has opened up a gap. Would Barcelona have the same effect if Lionel Messi didn't play? They are a very talented team, but without him you don't know, because Messi is their talisman. United have paid close on £30 million for a player who had just one year left on his contract, so that might tell you how valuable they perceive him. But it's not just the perception, the reality is that he has been fantastic."
While it is certain that van Persie will not let comments such as O'Neill's get to his head, the Dutchman has had a significant impact on United's title credentials this season. After losing the Premier League title on goal difference last season, it is difficult to imagine the same happening with players such as van Persie, Rooney, Chicharito, Shinji Kagawa and Danny Welbeck in the team. United's European prospects look promising as well and it will no doubt be a very mouth-watering occasion should United meet Messi and Barcelona sometime in the Champions League this season.
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