Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Manchester United welcome Cantona back as Young agrees terms

The day that it was revealed that Eric Cantona and Pele were on the way to Old Trafford, another more permanent arrival moved ever closer.

Ashley Young is set to finalise a £20m deal from Aston Villa to Manchester United, joining £16m man Phil Jones from Blackburn as Sir Alex Ferguson’s rebuilding plans continue.

With Atletico Madrid keeper David De Gea expected to follow suit and moves mooted for the likes of Arsenal’s Samir Nasri and Luka Modric from Spurs — who yesterday failed to quash talk of a possible move — it is certainly all-change down Salford way.

Part of the need for the remoulding came with the recent retirement of inspirational midfielder Paul Scholes and plans were announced yesterday for his testimonial game next month.

Scholes is almost certainly guaranteed a full house with confirmation that French icon Cantona is coming back to the ground he graced in the 90s.

Cantona will coach the New York Cosmos side, currently bidding to gain admittance to Major League Soccer, when they take on United on August 5.

The charismatic striker is regarded as one of the most significant figures in the club's entire history, proving to be the catalyst for United's emergence as the dominant side of the Premier League era.

He quit suddenly in 1997, having won four titles and two domestic doubles in his five seasons at Old Trafford.

“I wish to congratulate Paul for such an incredible career at Manchester United and I am looking forward to returning to Old Trafford in my new role with the New York Cosmos,” said Cantona, who recently celebrated his 45th birthday.

Following David Beckham's return for Gary Neville's testimonial last month, it marks another significant day for United, and Scholes in particular.

“This is going to be a big night for me and my family but one which I intend to enjoy and I will savour every moment,” said Scholes.

“I have spent my whole footballing life at Manchester United, so this will be an emotional farewell.

“This club is special in many ways but the fans are the best and I have always appreciated their support throughout my career. I hope they enjoy the night, especially seeing ‘the Boss’ and Eric battling it out in front of the dug outs.”

Scholes has committed himself to a coaching career at Old Trafford, having marked the end of his playing days, during which he secured 10 league titles, a figure second only to Ryan Giggs.

He is widely acknowledged to be one of the finest English players of his generation, with Sir Alex Ferguson all the more appreciative because Scholes turned his back on the celebrity lifestyle so many of his contemporaries revel in.

“Paul's retirement was typical of the man, low key, he was safe on holiday just so he could avoid any media interviews,” said Ferguson.

“However, he won't be able to hide away this time and it will be fantastic for the fans to be able to bid farewell to this exceptional footballer.

“The accolades he's received have been well deserved but for me Paul is one of those players who turns up, plays his football and it is that natural ability that makes Paul unique and revered by many, including myself.

“Now from one great player to another, Eric Cantona. I am going to relish this touchline showdown, one Gaelic mind to another.

“Neither of us will want to lose this one, it is sure to be a great night and a well deserved recognition for Paul.”

Brazilian superstar Pele will be in attendance too in his role as Cosmos honorary president.

He played for the team during their previous incarnation, when they attracted superstar names from all over the world.

The club eventually crumbled, along with the demise of the North American Soccer League in 1984.

Former Tottenham vice-chairman Paul Kemsley acquired the rights to the Cosmos name in 2009.

He is aiming to secure an MLS franchise by 2013 and is using guest players to fulfil friendlies in order to revive interest in the Cosmos name.

Meanwhile, Young’s desire to play Champions’ League football with United is such that it is being reported that he has cancelled his wedding so he can put pen-to-paper on his return from holiday in two weeks.

The England international, who can play wide or in attack, has already agreed personal terms on a five-year deal at Old Trafford.

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