Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Happy return to Manchester United for Eric Cantona

Eric Cantona returns to Old Trafford on Friday, 14 years after his shock retirement from Manchester United, having finally found a footballing destiny that fulfils all his requirements from life.

Cantona and Sir Alex Ferguson will be in opposing dug-outs for Paul Scholes' testimonial.

Ferguson will include Scholes in his Manchester United team one last time. Other members of that famed 'Class of 92' will play for Cantona as his New York Cosmos return to the professional stage, the most recognisable name of the first incarnation of the US game, beginning the quest to become part of the second.

Part of that mission involves developing their young players, something that has appealed to Cantona's nature,

“At first, it was difficult for Eric to understand what we were doing,” said Cosmos vice-chairman Terry Byrne.

“But after two or three meetings he came to New York, loved the city and his family moved as well.

“His biggest passion is developing talented young players. That is his dream and his vision. He has a very clear strategy for what he wants to do with his kids.

“Once we explained what we wanted and showed him a documentary about Cosmos' history, he stood up and said 'this is a combination between sport and art. I love it'.”

So, Cantona must mould together a squad of senior 'guest' professionals, including Fabio Cannavaro, Robbie Keane, Wayne Bridge and Gary Neville — but not David Beckham, whose contract with MLS rival Los Angeles Galaxy ruled out any chance of involvement — with nine members of the Cosmos Under-23 squad to give United a game and let the world know they are back.

Ultimately, the aim is to secure the 20th MLS franchise, which is likely to be announced later this year.

The obvious problem for Cosmos is that, having pledged to house themselves in New York, unlike the Red Bulls who are based across the Hudson River in New Jersey, they presently have no home.

“Our biggest asset is New York City,” said Byrne. “We intend to capitalise on that.”

Meanwhile Inter Milan coach Gian Piero Gasperini insists he is not losing any sleep over the continued speculation regarding the possibility of midfielder Wesley Sneijder moving to Old Trafford.

"The transfer market closes on 31 August and we have all been trained to live with these rumours for the duration of the season," said Gasperini.

"Have Man United put in a bid for Sneijder? I don't know and I don't care, but it's not unusual for great players to be in demand.”

While Inter lost 3-0 to Manchester City in the Dublin Super cup at the weekend, Manchester United beat Barcelona 2-1 in front of almost 82,000 at FedEx Field with Nani and Michael Owen on target in the pre-season friendly.

In contrast to United’s pre-season success, Arsenal were booed by their own fans after drawing 1-1 at home to New York Red Bulls in the Emirates Cup. Robin van Persie put the Gunners into the lead before a Kyle Bartley own goal gave the visistors a draw and allowed Bulls skipper and former Arsenal hero Thierry Henry the chance to pick up the trophy.

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