Patrice Evra: Robin van Persie said sorry for missing a penalty... despite scoring a hat-trick

£24m signing is proving a bargain

Patrice Evra knew from the moment Robin van Persie said sorry at Southampton that Manchester United had signed a class act.

Van Persie's injury-time free-kick at Manchester City on Sunday repaid another chunk of the £24million Sir Alex Ferguson invested in the striker last summer.

With 14 goals to his name already, Ferguson's judgement has already been proved sound, but it was at St Mary's in August, in the aftermath of a 3-2 win in which Van Persie had scored a hat-trick, that Evra discovered the forward's stamp of class.

"Robin is perfect for Manchester United," Evra told TalkSPORT. "When he scored the hat-trick at Southampton he also missed a penalty.

"The first thing he said when he came back to the dressing room was that he was really sorry for missing the penalty. That shows the hunger, humility and personality he has to win trophies.

"He is not just scoring for himself. He really wants the team to win something."

While Ferguson has been effusive about Van Persie's impact, he has tended to keep plaudits for Wayne Rooney to a minimum.

Rooney was alone among the starting line-up at Reading that was required to start the midweek Champions League defeat to Cluj, with Ferguson claiming the 27-year-old needed more games to get his full fitness back after a very brief period on the sidelines with tonsillitis.

If there has been an element of cajoling about Ferguson's man management, it seems to have worked given Rooney has now scored four times in a week to take his seasonal tally to seven.

"A lot of people criticised Wayne at the beginning of the season, asking why he didn't score so many goals," Evra said.

"Last week he scored two goals. Today (Sunday) he got two again. He is a really important player for us."

Rooney has now also followed Alan Shearer, Andy Cole, Robbie Fowler, Thierry Henry and Frank Lampard in becoming the sixth player to score 150 Premier League goals.

In addition, he leapfrogged Sir Bobby Charlton in becoming United's most prolific scorer in Manchester derbies, moving alongside City's Francis Lee and Joe Hayes on the overall record of 10.

"I didn't know I was the top United derby scorer but I am proud of that," Rooney said. "It is a great feeling to score against City.

"There is a lot of passion and pride in Manchester in these games and it has been great for me to score so many."

However, Rooney was happy for Van Persie to take the limelight after his momentous strike.

"I practise free-kicks most days with Robin, Ryan Giggs and Ashley Young," he added. "He is a fantastic striker of the ball. Before he took it I went over and asked him was he crossing or shooting, so I knew whether to get across my man or leave him space to shoot.

"He told me was shooting and thankfully it went into the bottom corner."

The result has given United a healthy advantage heading towards Christmas.

With relegation threatened Sunderland due to visit Old Trafford on Saturday, it would be a major surprise if United's present momentum was halted prior to a tricky festive programme, which sends the Red Devils to Swansea and Wigan either side of home encounters with Newcastle and West Brom.

On December 20, United will learn their last-16 opponents in Europe, and the point where City's unscheduled inactivity could start to work in their favour.

To Evra, it just makes it more remarkable that old friend Carlos Tevez was overlooked in City's starting XI on Sunday in favour of Mario Balotelli.

"Tevez caused us problems when he came on," Evra said. "I told him before the game that I was really happy he was not going to start.

"It was a good sign for us. When he came on he put pressure on every defender and chased everywhere."

PA

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